European PC market hits four-year low

Provisional figures show European market may be headed for saturation

The European PC market experienced its slowest fourth quarter in four years, according to provisional figures released this week, giving weight to fears that the market is becoming saturated.

Fourth-quarter shipments rose only 6.9 percent on the previous year, according to British research firm Context. That compares with 11.7 percent year-on-year growth in 1999 and 20 percent growth in 1997 and 1998.

The fourth quarter is traditionally the PC market's strongest, but last year the period coincided with an economic slowdown in the US that curbed demand from many buyers.

While there is little evidence of a US-style economic slowdown in Europe, the PC market here may be reaching a saturation point more quickly than the US market. Just one third of UK households own a PC, compared to half in the US, but non-PC devices such as interactive television and mobile phones may already be filling consumers' computing needs, according to Context.

Compaq was Europe's leading PC maker, with 13.8 percent of the market, followed by Fujitsu Siemens Computers, a joint venture between Germany's Siemens and Japan's Fujitsu, with 9 percent and Dell with 8 percent.

The provisional figures show desktop PC sales have declined, while demand for portable computers and servers is still strong.

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