PC sales fall flat for the first time in years

By Martin Courtney
15 Jan 2009 View Comments
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HP mini notebook
Strong sales of mini-notebooks PCs brought scant seasonal cheer to manufacturers

Sales of desktop and portable PCs remained flat in the fourth quarter of 2008 despite big average price declines, with the credit crunch pushing new systems off most people’s Christmas lists, according to research from IDC and Gartner.

IDC estimated worldwide shipments were down fractionally by 0.4 per cent year on year to 77.3 million, and down 2.5 per cent on the previous quarter. Gartner calculated that the global market saw a 1.1 per cent increase to 78.1 million in the same period.

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IDC said this was the first time in six years that its research has shown a drop in PC sales.

According to Gartner, PC sales in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region were up 4.9 per cent, far healthier than the US where volume shipments were down 10.1 per cent. The UK showed the weakest growth of all European countries.

Sales of recently introduced mini-notebook PCs proved strongest, but any joy at higher sales volumes was tempered by their low average selling cost. This factor is likely to have a unwelcome effect on some vendors' overall revenue, with financial results for the period yet to be announced.

The winners among the top five PC vendors were Acer and Toshiba, whose market shares for the quarter were up by 25 to 30 per cent and 21 per cent respectively, while Dell slipped six per cent and Lenovo around five per cent. HP retained the biggest market share at 20 per cent.

With the pre-Christmas quarter showing disappointing results, vendors will be hoping for a boost in spending on new PCs in the next three months, with the first quarter traditionally one of the slowest due to the end of the tax year.

Nor does there seem much hope of corporate spending making up for shortfalls in consumer spending. Gartner has also forecast that company IT budgets will remain flat for the remainder of 2009, whilst rival analyst Forrester has predicted a three per cent fall in IT department spending.

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