End of the Windows XP effect sends desktop sales tumbling, but laptop sales jump

The PC says that reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated.

Despite predictions to the contrary, it seem there is still plenty of life left in the PC market.

PC shipments across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) reached 25.5 million units in the fourth quarter of 2014, a two percent increase on the same quarter a year ago, according to calculations by IDC.

It said strong consumer demand during the holiday season meant the PC market racked up a third consecutive quarter of growth - albeit modest and patchy. PC sales across the region grew by 5.5 percent across the year, with 93.3 million PCs shipped.

But the researchers noted there are big differences across the region: Western Europe continued to drive growth, with shipments increasing 10.7 percent. The Middle East and Africa grew 2.6 percent, while Central and Eastern Europe contracted 18.7 percent.

As a result, IDC said the market was primarily driven by healthy consumer shipments in Western Europe, and vendors stocking up for Christmas and January sales, resulting in portable PC shipments increasing 5.3 percent; in contrast desktop PC shipments contracted 3.5 percent during the quarter.

In Western Europe, shipments for the holiday season and post-Christmas promotions underpinned the growth particularly in the consumer space, with France and the U.K. showing "solid double-digit percentage growth". IDC said promotions have been key to driving demand and boosting consumer portable PC shipments by 18.2 percent and consumer desktops by 13.2 percent. But the positive impact of the end of Windows XP support on desktops ended, which explained the 3.9 percent decline in business sales, even though business demand for laptops and notebooks was up with a 12.6 percent increase.

Overall desktop shipment growth in Western Europe reached 1.6 percent and portable PCs 15.9 percent.

"PC manufacturers prepared very attractive consumer offers this Christmas, with low price points supported by Windows 8.1 with Bing edition, which enticed end users to renew their devices," said Maciek Gornicki, senior research analyst, IDC EMEA Personal Computing. Windows 8.1 with Bing is a cheaper Windows licence of PC makers - in return for the lower price manufacturers have to set Bing as the default search engine and set MSN as the default browser home page (users are free to change this).

Gornicki said because the deal for manufacturers is about to change, inventories have been built up this quarter, contributing to higher levels of stock in the supply chain, which might translate into slowing consumer shipments in the first half of 2015. In the business market the wave of desktop renewals following the end of Windows XP support ended abruptly, "while refreshes of portable PCs related to the introduction of Windows 7 four years ago continued and kept the commercial portable market healthy," he said.

Currency fluctuations have also had a strong impact in northern Europe, Russia, and other countries in Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa while an unstable political situation and macroeconomic weaknesses continued to inhibit investments in parts of the region.

The top 3 players in EMEA account for more than half of the market and the top 5 for more than 70 percent. IDC said:

• HP outperformed the market and consolidated its share at more than 23 percent in EMEA. The vendor made strong gains, particularly in the portable PC area with 29 percent growth.

• Lenovo maintained the strongest growth among the top players reaching almost a 20 percent share in the fourth quarter.

• Dell also grew faster than the market and gained share in EMEA.

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