New statistics from Gartner indicate that consumer PC demand during the first quarter of 2011 had fallen from the same period a year ago, a trend the research firm says could signal sustained weak demand.
In a statement Thursday, Gartner said preliminary findings indicate 84.4 million units of personal computers were sold worldwide in the first quarter, a decrease of 1.1 percent over 2010. This marks the market's first year-on-year decline in six quarters.
Gartner, which had previously forecasted a 3 percent growth for the first quarter, pointed out that the PC shipment results deviated from the typical first-quarter slowdown. Instead, it suggested potential market sluggishness.
According to the research firm, PC sales have dropped globally because consumers were no longer attracted by low prices. Media tablets and other consumer electronic products are, on the other hand, increasingly popular among users.
"With the launch of the iPad2 in February, more consumers either switched to buying an alternative device, or simply held back from buying PCs," said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner, in the statement.
"We are investigating whether this trend is likely to have a long-term effect on the PC market."
Enterprise, Asia bright spots
According to Gartner, the decline in the global PC market was mitigated by steady growth in the enterprise segment as a result of refresh cycles. Replacement exercises, it added, is expected to continue into end-2011 or the beginning of next year, depending on the region.
Shipments of mobile PCs in the first quarter grew by 9.1 percent, while desk-based PC shipments fell by 0.2 percent, compared with last year.
PC shipment in the Asia-Pacific excluding Japan region also continued its upward trend, surpassing 28.2 million units in the first quarter of 2011--a year-on-year increase of 4.1 percent. In particular, Southeast Asian markets such as Indonesia and Thailand saw healthy shipments during the quarter, Gartner reported, adding that the two markets are expected to achieve 10 percent growth over the same period last year.
Gartner noted that Japan recorded a 13.1 percent decline in Q1, with shipments reaching 4 million units. The earthquake and tsunami that hit the country on Mar. 11 reduced shipments, impacting the enterprise segment the most as the later part of March is typical the year's busiest procurement period.
During the first quarter, Hewlett Packard (HP) remained the No. 1 PC vendor worldwide with a 17.6 percent market share, despite recording a 3.4 percent drop in shipments over 2010, said Gartner. Acer also held on to its second place, with a bigger year-on-year shipment decline of 12.2 percent.
Dell suffered a year-on-year decline in shipment for the first time in six quarters, underperforming in US, Europe, Africa and the Middle East but achieving strong growth in Asia.
Fourth-placed Lenovo, on the other hand, was the best performer with a 16.6 percent increase in shipments globally.
Rounding up the top 5 was Toshiba, which posted a 5.3 percent jump.