iPad hype blamed for softening PC sales in US and Europe

14 Oct 2010

The historically strong third quarter for the PC industry has been disrupted by slowing consumer demand for notebooks and netbooks, and media hype surrounding the iPad and other tablet devices have also had an impact.

Worldwide PC shipments surpassed 88.3 million units in the third quarter of 2010, a 7.6pc increase from the third quarter of 2009, according to Gartner. These third-quarter results were below Gartner’s earlier market outlook. Gartner had expected third-quarter PC shipments to grow 12.7pc.

“The major growth inhibitor in the third quarter of 2010 was softness in consumer PC demand in the US and Western Europe. The third quarter historically is a strong consumer quarter, led by back-to-school sales,” said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner.

“Consumer mobile PC demand, driven by low-priced notebooks, including mini-notebooks, slowed after very strong growth the past two years.

“Media tablet hype around devices such as the iPad has also affected consumer notebook growth by delaying some PC purchases, especially in the US consumer market. Media tablets don’t replace primary PCs, but they affect PC purchases in many ways,” Kitagawa said.

“At this stage, hype around media tablets has led consumers and the channels to take a ‘wait-and-see’ approach to buying a new device.”

HP remained in the top worldwide position, but it experienced a slight decline in shipments in the quarter. HP experienced a 20pc decline in shipments in Asia/Pacific as the company put a higher priority on profits in the region. In the US, the company was impacted by weak consumer growth.

Acer experienced a shipment decline of 1.7pc in the third quarter. Dell showed solid growth across most regions. Overall, Dell benefited from the professional PC market refresh, but North America showed disappointing results.

Lenovo showed the strongest growth among the top five vendors worldwide. The professional PC market helped boost Lenovo’s growth in the US and EMEA.

In the US, PC shipments surpassed 17.6 million units in the third quarter of 2010, a 2.2pc increase from the third quarter of 2009. Consumer mobile PC shipments were the weakest in the last several years.

Media tablets and a gloomy economy

“The weak back-to-school sales were not because students held off on PC purchases, but because non-student buyers, who normally are lured by massive back-to-school promotions, stayed away from PC purchases,” Kitagawa said.

“These buyers were influenced by media tablet introductions, as well as the still-gloomy economy, since these buyers do not have an immediate need to purchase a PC.”

In the US market, HP was the No 1 vendor in the third quarter of 2010 as its shipments increased 2pc. Consumer PC demand had an impact on HP. Dell also had a challenging quarter.

Apple had another strong quarter. Increasing traffic to Apple, associated with the iPad release (iPads are not included in Gartner’s PC shipment statistics), as well as iMac and Mac Pro refreshes, contributed to the growth.

In EMEA, PC shipments totalled 27.3 million units in the third quarter of 2010, an increase of 7.3pc from the same period last year.

The Western Europe, PC market slowed as professional buyers and consumers held back on PC purchases. Emerging markets in Central and Eastern Europe, and the Middle East and Africa experienced good growth, but it was not enough to offset weakness in Western Europe.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years