Double digit growth for PC industry in 2004, says Gartner

13 Feb 2004

The world PC market is forecast to reach 44m units in the first quarter of 2004, a 13.3pc growth over the same time last year, a preliminary forecast by Gartner claims. The growth rate, which Gartner says will be sustained throughout all four quarters of this year, was driven by strong demand from consumers encouraged to adopt new mobile computing technologies.

For the year 2004, PC shipments are expected to top 187m units, a 13.9pc increase from 2003 shipments. Gartner says that the worldwide PC market is forecast to experience double-digit growth all four quarters of 2004.

“Falling entry prices, better price-performance capability and rising awareness among home users concerning the benefits and availability of wireless technologies are major drivers in the home mobile market,” said George Shiffler, principal analyst for Gartner’s computing platforms and economics research. “The explosion of digital content devices and creation tools will also help drive PC sales in the home market.”

“As the economy improves, many US businesses will need to replace PCs that were bought back in 2000,” said Kiyomi Yamada, industry analyst for Gartner’s computing platforms worldwide group. “However, we do not expect stronger sales into the business segment until the recovery consolidates later in the year. Many enterprises are encouraged by signs of an economic recovery, but they are not rushing out to buy new systems. They will likely take a slow approach when replacing these older PCs, especially if employment growth continues to lag.”

On a global basis, the Western European business PC market performed above average in 2003, while the US business market performed below average. Gartner analysts said strong business growth in Western Europe can be attributed to depreciation of the US dollar against the Euro, which is giving greater spending power to Eurozone businesses.

“We expect Eurozone businesses will continue to enjoy enhanced spending power throughout 2004, so long as the dollar remains weak against the Euro,” Shiffler said. “In any event, we believe upcoming growth in the U.S. market will more than compensate for any weak Eurozone sales.”

Total PC shipments in the EMEA marketplace during the final quarter of 2003 totalled 17m units, a 17pc increase. Total PC shipments in Europe during 2003 were 46m, up 13pc on 2002.

“The fourth quarter was exceptionally strong, with growth in the professional notebook and desk based markets leading the way,” said Ranjit Atwal, analyst with Gartner’s PC hardware group in Europe. “The anticipated replacement cycle of desk based PCs purchased in 1999 and 2000 is beginning to materialise, with many large businesses taking advantage of the low dollar valuation. As a result, PC shipments in the professional segment grew 19.5pc, beating the consumer segment by four percentage points.

“Acer, Fujitsu Siemens and IBM recorded the highest growth rates in quarter four. Many regional and smaller PC assemblers struggled to defend their positions, both as a result of continued price erosion and shortages of key notebook PC components like LCD panels,” added Atwal.

The biggest share gains came from Acer, who became the number one commercial mobile PC vendor in EMEA in the fourth quarter of 2003. Its immense growth of 76pc was largely driven by mobile PCs in Western Europe. Both Acer and Dell gains didn’t come at the expense of Hewlett Packard who managed to hold its market share flat despite executing the Compaq merger.

Gartner said the leading international vendors outgrew the market in 2003. This resulted in share loss amongst local vendors, increasing the likelihood of consolidation during 2004. The percentage growth in the EMEA PC market more than doubled in 2003 compared to 2002, which recorded a six percent growth. The growth was fuelled by the resurgence of PC replacements in the business segment and the low dollar valuation.

“The strong growth seen in the second half of the year is expected to continue in EMEA into 2004. At a worldwide level, our new forecasts predict that the PC market will reach 187m units in 2004, a 13.9pc increase from 2003. We expect the market to experience double-digit growth during all four quarters in 2004,” Atwal added.

In quarter four, all three Europe Middle East and Africa (EMEA) regions recorded double-digit shipment growth. Italy and Russia performed particularly well, both reaching new milestones by exceeding one million unit shipments for the first time in history. Russia is now the fourth largest PC market in EMEA after Germany, the UK and France.

The Netherlands reported its highest growth level for two years in quarter four, driven by fiscal changes to its ‘PC Prive’ employee purchase schemes. In France, much of the growth came from a late pick up on mobile PCs compared to the rest of Europe. Meanwhile, Spain benefited from tax incentives in the small and medium business (SMB) market to purchase PCs, as well as a €1bn project driven by the Minister of Science to promote PC penetration and Internet usage.

The UK PC market saw one of the weakest consumer markets. Most of the 14pc growth was generated from the professional market, marked by a clear pick up in the corporate reseller channel. Germany remained the leading country in the EMEA PC market but had a tough year, reflected in its negative growth of 3pc in the desk based market. However, the German PC market saw some recovery following a positive fourth quarter, with the business segment seeing the start of an investment cycle delayed by six months compared to the UK.

By John Kennedy