Global PC shipments rose slightly in the third quarter of 2011, with Asia-Pacific numbers beating expectations while market players struggled with slow market environments and evolving products.
According to a IDC report released Thursday, PC shipments increased by 3.6 percent in the third quarter over the same quarter last year. While this figure is below the earlier prediction of 4.5 percent, it is higher than the 2.7 percent growth in the second quarter of 2011. The market continues to struggle as consumer discretionary income is diverted to other areas, and business spending remains depressed in light of other priorities and a possible double-dip recession, IDC said.
The market was led by the Asia-Pacific region, excluding Japan, which clocked a double-digit growth that met IDC's projected volume, compared to two previous quarters of only single-digit growth. The region's growth momentum was driven by gains in China and India, as well as good volumes in Indonesia and Thailand.
Japan, however, continued to see growth in low single-digits, as Lenovo finalized its merger with NEC, leveraging its scale and becoming the clear market leader. Although power rationing affected some commercial purchases, the general Japanese market continued to see more adoption of both consumer and business PCs.
Jay Chou, senior research analyst for IDC's Quarterly PC Tracker, said: "At the moment, PCs have taken a backseat to a range of other devices competing for shrinking consumer and business budgets. While growth is expected to stay in mid-single digits in the fourth quarter, we should see faster growth in 2012 and beyond, based on easier comparisons and refreshed PC offerings as the industry better addresses evolving usage models by integrating more of the features in ultra-mobile devices."
Vendors face difficulties, Lenovo takes second place
Loren Loverde, IDC's vice president of worldwide consumer device trackers, noted that most vendors continued to struggle with the slow market environment and product changes. "Although we don't see media tablets and other devices replacing PCs, questions on how products will evolve, and consumer interest in these and other categories are providing a distraction.
"And while price remains critical, many users are delaying PC purchases for the moment," Loverde added.
According to IDC's global market numbers, Lenovo overtook Dell to take No. 2 position after trailing by a small margin in the second quarter. The Chinese PC maker experienced strong gains across all regions as it continued its channel expansion and capitalized on disarray among the other top players, the research firm said. Lenovo's partnership with NEC and acquisiton of Medion added incremental volume, providing new access to the Japanese and Western Europe markets.
Dell pulled an overall growth of 1.6 percent year-on-year, but while it continued to make gains in the Asia-Pacific and Central Europe, Middle East and Africa regions, it saw declined numbers in more mature regions. The PC maker also faced tough competition and sizable declines in some markets, but its continued expansion efforts in China continued to pay dividends, helping the company maintain double-digit growth in Asia-Pacific, IDC said.
HP grew 5.3 percent year-on-year due to double-digit growth in the United States. The vendor had been criticized for management missteps in the past few months, and had a change in CEO last month, and was affected by slower consumer demand in several regions, but still managed to outpace overall market growth.
Acer still struggled with inventory clearing and adjustment in its strategy, following declines in its mini-notebook sales and a management "shakeup". For the fourth consecutive quarter, the Taiwanese company's total shipments were down 20.6 percent from a year ago but easier comparisons with other PC offerings might help the company turn a corner in coming quarters, IDC noted.
Asus saw a strong quarter, boosting growth to more than 30 percent in the third quarter. Its strong gains in Asia-Pacific, along with improvements in Europe, Middle East and Africa, helped the company overtake Toshiba for No. 5 spot in worldwide shipments. While it experienced some difficulties adjusting for the decline in mini-notebook PCs, Asus' mainstream notebooks performed well especially among emerging markets.
Looking at Apple's numbers, total shipments increased over 20 percent, recovering from a dip to 15 percent growth in the second quarter. The company, however, had clocked over 20 percent quarterly growth rates for more than two years. The vendor's MacBook Air continued to boost volumes, and Apple's position in driving changes in consumer expectations of devices also positioned the company favorably relative to other players and amid tight consumer spending.
"There are opportunities [in the market], as demonstrated by Lenovo's gains, and we can expect PCs to find stronger demand in the coming years," Loverde said.