Worldwide PC shipments totaled 90.3 million units in the fourth quarter of 2012, a 4.9 percent year-over-year decline from the fourth quarter of 2011, according to preliminary results by Gartner, Inc. Analysts said the PC industry’s problems point to something beyond a weak economy.
“Tablets have dramatically changed the device landscape for PCs, not so much by ‘cannibalizing’ PC sales, but by causing PC users to shift consumption to tablets rather than replacing older PCs,” says Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner. “Whereas as once we imagined a world in which individual users would have both a PC and a tablet as personal devices, we increasingly suspect that most individuals will shift consumption activity to a personal tablet, and perform creative and administrative tasks on a shared PC. There will be some individuals who retain both, but we believe they will be exception and not the norm. Therefore, we hypothesize that buyers will not replace secondary PCs in the household, instead allowing them to age out and shifting consumption to a tablet.”
“This transformation was triggered by the availability of compelling low-cost tablets in 2012, and will continue until the installed base of PCs declines to accommodate tablets as the primary consumption device,” Ms. Kitagawa said. “On the positive side for vendors, the disenfranchised PCs are those with lighter configurations, which mean that we should see an increase in PC average selling prices (ASPs) as users replace machines used for richer applications, rather than for consumption.”
During the holiday season, consumers no longer viewed PCs as the number one gift item. Given a burgeoning variety of increasingly more attractive devices and services, consumers directed their attention elsewhere. Analysts said there was uptake of very low priced notebooks as a part of mega holiday deals, but this uptake did little to boost holiday PC sales.
Neither did the launch of Microsoft’s Windows 8 have a significant impact on PC shipments in the fourth quarter. Analysts said some PC vendors offered somewhat lackluster form factors in their Windows 8 offerings and missed the excitement of touch. New products are coming to market, and this could drive churn within the installed base.
HP regained top position in worldwide PC shipments in the fourth quarter of 2012 (see Table 1), however the company’s shipments did not grow compared to a year ago. Analysts said HP most likely gave up a certain margin level to gain market shares. HP was successful in managing large retail deals targeting Microsoft’s Windows 8 launch and holiday sales in selected regions.
Note that Gartner data includes desk-based PCs and mobile PCs, including mini-notebooks but not media tablets such as the iPad.
Lenovo dropped to the No. 2 position in the fourth quarter of 2012, but experienced the best growth rate (8.2 percent) among the top five PC vendors worldwide. Lenovo’s growth exceeded regional growth rates in North America, EMEA and Asia/Pacific, but was lower than the industry average in Latin America and Japan. In North America, Lenovo performed well by expanding in the retail market and protecting professional market.
In the U.S., PC shipments totaled 17.5 million units in the fourth quarter of 2012, a 2.1 percent decline from the fourth quarter of 2011 (see Table 2). Due to the tight inventory control and preparation for the Windows 8 launch, most PC vendors were able to ship Windows 8 PCs to the retail space. However, Gartner notes that PC sell-through was rather weak, which leaves some level of inventory concerns for vendors in the consumer market.
“Consumer’s holiday spending went into other products and services, and U.S. holiday sales became less important for PC sales. For professionals, the fourth quarter is typically a good sales season because of last minutes PC purchases before the tax year-end. Our early research indicates that there was good growth in professional PC sales,” Ms. Kitagawa said.
PC shipments in EMEA totaled 28.1 million units in the fourth quarter of 2012, a 9.6 percent decrease from the fourth quarter of 2011 (see Table 3). Western Europe remained the weak point across EMEA, as Central and Eastern Europe and the Middle East and Africa saw growth quarter-on-quarter.
“The PC market continues to face many headwinds. The launch of Windows 8 had no impact on PC demand, especially as Ultramobile products were both limited in supply, as well as being priced too high,” says Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner. “The holiday season mostly saw retailers clearing Windows 7 notebook inventory or driving volume of low-end notebooks. Furthermore, the increasing choice of tablets at decreasing price points no doubt became a favorite Christmas present ahead of PCs.”
“In the fourth quarter of 2012, mobile PC shipments decreased 11 percent while desktop PC shipments declined 6 percent year-on-year,” comment Isabelle Durand, another Gartner principal research analyst. “However, all-in-one form factor models from Asus, Lenovo and HP look like a promising platform for the future.”
HP retained the No. 1 position in the fourth quarter of 2012, thanks to good results across all products in the professional PC segment. Dell performed weakly, losing nearly 2 percent share in the fourth quarter of 2012. Among the top five vendors, only Lenovo showed year-on-year growth and its strong performance in the quarter helped it displace Acer from the No. 2 position.
In the second half of 2012, the EMEA PC market experienced two consecutive quarters of decline, resulting in overall shipments for 2012 declining 2.8 percent from 2011. Western Europe lost another 10 percent of volume, indicating likely structural changes to the market rather than weak demand.
PC shipments in Asia/Pacific totaled 29.9 million units in the fourth quarter of 2012, a 1.8 percent decline from the fourth quarter of 2011. Vendors struggled to offer compelling products to convince buyers to upgrade and attract new buyers as consumers’ interest continues to be on smartphones and tablets. The introduction of Windows 8 met with lukewarm response and availability was primarily on the higher-end models, which were priced beyond the mainstream price point for volume sales.
For the year, PC shipments were 352.7 million units, a 3.5 percent decline from 2011 (see Table 4). HP retained the top spot in the global PC market, accounting for 16 percent of the market. Lenovo was the No. 2 vendor with 14.8 percent market share. Asus showed the strongest growth among the top five vendors, with shipments increasing 17.1 percent.
These results are preliminary. Final statistics will be available soon to clients of Gartner’s PC Quarterly Statistics Worldwide by Region program. This program offers a comprehensive and timely picture of the worldwide PC market, allowing product planning, distribution, marketing and sales organizations to keep abreast of key issues and their future implications around the globe.
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