PC shipments fall amid HDD shortage, weak economy

Global shipments for fourth quarter 2011 drop slightly to hit 92.7 million, but Asia-Pacific and Europe outperform expectations to show demand for PCs still healthy, IDC reveals.
Written by Liau Yun Qing, Contributor

Worldwide PC shipments in the fourth quarter of 2011 declined slightly compared to previous year's results to reach 92.7 million units, and the industry will have to overcome key challenges in 2012 to buck the slide, IDC revealed.

The research firm stated in its preliminary findings for the fourth quarter of 2011 PC shipments released Wednesday that the overall growth for the global market fell by 0.17 percent compared to the same time in 2010. However, the industry saw an overall 1.6 percent growth for the year of 2011.

The decline was attributed to shortage in hard-disk drives (HDD) brought on by the Thai floods last October, slow economic conditions and competition from other consumer electronic products such as media tablets, e-readers and mobile phones, the report stated.

In terms of regional performances, Loren Loverde, vice president of worldwide consumer device tracker program at IDC, said Europe and Asia-Pacific came in "a little stronger than expected", which he said shows the improvement in key markets and the strength of underlying demand in emerging regions. 

Asia-Pacific, in particular, maintained its healthy demand for PCs as most of the markets met the firm's forecast numbers and China exceeding expectations, it added.

Gartner stated in a separate report on Wednesday that PC shipments in the Asia-Pacific region reached 30.4 million units, a growth of 8.5 percent compared with the fourth quarter of 2010. However, the market performance was below the firm's prediction of 10.6 percent growth, it noted, adding that preliminary findings showed weaker shipment growth in China, India and Thailand.

Market challenges ahead
As for 2012, Loverde said the industry will need to work through key hurdles, which include the recovery of HDD supply, the launch of Windows 8 and the successful evolution of PC design to become more mobile.

That said, he believes that the PC industry "appears to be on the right path" and will see a substantial double-digit growth after working through the issues this year.

Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner, added that HDD shortages had little impact on last quarter's PC shipments and prices. It will, however, be felt in the first half of 2012 and continue throughout the year and this will temporarily lower PC shipment growth, Gartner noted.

Commenting on the ultrabook category, Kitagawa noted that the ultra-portable mobile computer did not seem to draw consumers' attention. She added that consumers had very little understanding and awareness of the category and only a small group of buyers were willing to pay a premium for these devices.

She added that 2012 will be ultrabooks' "big debut stage" after the device had been heavily promoted at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) taking place currently.

HP maintains top spot
Among PC vendors, Hewlett-Packard (HP) maintained its top spot garnering 16 percent of the overall shipment figures, Gartner stated. However, the company saw a 16.2 percent year-on-year decline, which the research firm attributed to the company's indecision over whether to spin off its PC business or not. CEO Meg Whitman has since decided to retain the unit

IDC added that HP's market share was picked up by "aggressive competitors, in particular Lenovo". The Chinese company took 14 percent of the market share and held on to its No. 2 position, said the report, adding that the company saw a record high growth of over 36 percent.

Dell, Acer and Asus, rounded off the top five positions in that order, IDC said.

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