PC shipments in Western Europe totalled 15.5 million units in the first quarter of 2012, a 3.1% decline compared with the equivalent period in 2011, according to Gartner.

The PC markets of Italy, Greece, Portugal and Spain were again the worst hit.

“Although we saw moderate growth in professional PC shipments, the overall PC market in Western Europe showed a decline,” says Meike Escherich, principal analyst at Gartner. “Consumers continued to focus their spending on alternative computing devices like smartphones and media tablets.”

In Western Europe, the professional PC market declined 2.5% in the first quarter of 2012, but saw better demand for replacement PCs as a result of increasing Windows 7 deployments. The consumer PC market declined 3.8% year-on-year. Mobile PC shipments decreased 5.1%, while desk-based PC shipments were driven by better demand in the professional PC market, which exhibited 0.3% growth.

HP saw strong sales of professional PCs and maintained its No1 position in Western Europe. Although Acer remained in the No2 spot, this vendor still seemed to be in transition and suffering from major management changes at a country level. Asus claimed the No3 position, demonstrating that the wide variety of mobile PCs it sells through retail remained attractive to consumers. Lenovo was the fastest-growing vendor with growth of 34.6%. Lenovo’s decision to expand its consumer and business presence with an aggressive pricing strategy is paying off.

“This quarter had a ‘wait and see’ feel to it, as many retailers were awaiting Intel’s Ivy Bridge-based Ultrabooks and the arrival of Windows 8-based PCs,”says Escherich. “Intel is already promoting the Ultrabooks, but there are questions if consumers see the difference, and more importantly, pay the higher price point.”