HP built on its lead over Dell in the global notebook PC market for the fourth quarter of 2006, and Acer increased its lead over fourth-place Toshiba, according to an analyst report released Monday.

Both Dell and Acer grew at a pace of 29 per cent compared to their units sold in the third quarter, far above the global notebook market growth rate of 14.4 per cent, according to DisplaySearch. That allowed them to gain ground in market share on Dell, whose sales dropped 2 per cent, and Toshiba, which grew only 5 percent.

If Acer maintains this pace, it will soon pass Dell and move into second place, the report said. Acer sold 3.1 million notebooks during the fourth quarter, passing the 3 million unit mark for the first time and drawing close to Dell's 3.5 million units.

Aggressive retail marketing was the recipe for success, said John Jacobs, DisplaySearch's director of notebook market research, in a statement. An increasing number of first-time PC buyers are choosing notebooks instead of desktops, and existing owners are making the same choice when they upgrade.

The most successful notebook vendors took advantage of those trends with large advertising budgets and a wide range of products from entry-level to high-end systems, and included bundles with printers or flat-panel displays, Jacobs said.

The new report was similar to vendor rankings released March 6 by iSuppli that covered both notebook and desktop sales. But the DisplaySearch report focuses only on notebooks, a sector that is growing much faster than desktops or servers. For the full year of 2006, the notebook market grew 27.7 per cent to 78.8 million units. The overall PC market grew more slowly, rising 8.9 per cent to 238.7 million.

Now the notebook market is on track to continue its strong growth in 2007, rising 23 percent to reach a forecast of almost 97 million units, according to DisplaySearch.

HP will claim the lion's share of that growth, with a top market share of 20 percent. The rest of the rankings for global fourth quarter notebook sales include Dell (15 per cent), Acer (13.3 perc ent), Toshiba (9.8 per cent), Lenovo (8.4 per cent), Fujitsu-Siemens (5.3 per cent), Sony (5 per cent), Asus (4.4 per cent) and Apple (4.1 per cent).