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Weak demand leads to sluggish PC sales

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Worldwide PC shipments totalled 84,3-million units in the first quarter of 2011, a 1,1% decline from the first quarter of 2010, according to preliminary results Gartner.

Although the first quarter is traditionally a slow one for PC sales, these shipment results indicate potential sluggishness, not just a normal seasonal slowdown, and are well below Gartner's earlier forecast for 3% growth in the first quarter of 2011.
"Weak demand for consumer PCs was the biggest inhibitor of growth," says Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner. "Low prices for consumer PCs, which had long stimulated growth, no longer attracted buyers. Instead, consumers turned their attention to media tablets and other consumer electronics. With the launch of the iPad 2 in February, more consumers either switched to buying an alternative device, or simply held back from buying PCs. We're investigating whether this trend is likely to have a long-term effect on the PC market."
Steady growth in the professional PC sector, driven by the replacement cycle, was a bright spot for the global PC market. Without the professional segment growth, the PC market could have experienced one of the worst declines in its recent history. Replacement sales will generally continue into late 2011 or the start of 2012, with some variations between different regions and market segments.
HP performed below the worldwide average, but maintained the number one position, accounting for 17,6% of worldwide PC shipments in the first quarter of 2011. HP was impacted by weak consumer PC demand, as well as growing issues in Asia/Pacific. Acer continued to face challenges as the mini-notebook market was impacted by media tablets, and its shipments declined 12,2%.
In the first quarter of 2011, Dell experienced a shipment decline year-over-year for the first time in six quarters. Dell underperformed in the US, Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and Latin America, but it achieved strong growth in Asia/Pacific. Lenovo experienced the strongest growth among the top five vendors (16.%) as it continued to price its products very competitively in both the consumer and professional sectors. It achieved strong growth across all regions.
PC shipments in EMEA totalled 26,1-million units in the first quarter of 2011, a 2.8% decline from the first quarter of 2010.
“The PC market in EMEA had not exhibited decline since the third quarter of 2009 when the market declined 8.%,” says Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner. “The excess inventory accumulated at the end of the fourth quarter of 2010 was reduced slowly, especially as some of the delayed Sandy Bridge products entered the market in March. The seasonal trend was also weaker than expected, indicating that the downward trend seen at the end of 2010 continued into the first quarter of 2011.”
Western Europe remained the main weakness in EMEA, as consumers continue to both hold back disposable spend on PCs, or spend it on other devices like media tablets, especially after the launch of iPad2.
The Middle East and Africa (MEA) market was a little weaker than expected as the growing unrest in North Africa caused some caution among business and consumers when purchasing PCs. Overall the MEA and Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) markets showed strong growth, highlighting the growing divergence in growth trends between the mature and emerging PC markets in EMEA.
“Demand in the professional PC market held back this quarter as the weak economic environment continues to discourage PC spending,” says Meike Escherich, principal analyst at Gartner.
All of the top five vendors apart from Lenovo exhibited a decline year-on-year below the market average. Lenovo did particularly well in the first quarter of 2011 because of more aggressive pricing tactics. HP regained the number one position in EMEA from Acer, largely due to HP picking up tactical deals as Acer declined rapidly.