Worldwide PC shipments totaled 90.3 million units in the fourth quarter of 2012, a 4.9 percent 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,” said 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 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.
The launch of Microsoft’s Windows 8 did not 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 the top position in worldwide PC shipments in the fourth quarter of 2012 with 14.6 million PCs shipped, 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.
Lenovo dropped to the No. 2 position in the fourth quarter of 2012 with 13.9 million PCs sold, but it 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 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.
Following HP and Lenovo are Dell (9.2 million), Acer (8.6 illion), ASUS (6.5 million) and other OEMs with 37.3 million PCs shipped.
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. Again HP is the top PC seller in the US market with 4.6 million PCs shipped, followed by Dell (3.3 million) and Apple (2.1 million PCs sold).
“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.
These numbers include desk-based PCs and mobile PCs, including mini-notebooks but not media tablets such as the iPad. Data is based on the shipments selling into channels.
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.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,” said 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,” said Isabelle Durand, principal research analyst at Gartner. “However, all-in-one form factor models from Asus, Lenovo and HP look like a promising platform for the future.”
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 2012 year PC shipments were 352.7 million units, a 3.5 percent decline from 2011. HP retained the top spot in the global PC market, accounting for 16 percent of the market with 56.5 million PCs shipped. Lenovo was the No. 2 vendor with 14.8 percent market share with 52.1 million units and Dell came in third with 37.6 million units.