Apple to overtake HP as world’s No 1 PC vendor


21 Nov 2011

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The iPad 2

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Apple is expected to overtake HP to be the world’s leading PC vendor by the second half of 2012. Canalys expects full-year 2011 shipments to reach 415m, up 15pc year-on-year, thanks to tablet computer sales.

Tablet computers, in particular the iPad, have radically changed the dynamics of the PC industry over the last year, already propelling Apple into second place in the worldwide PC market in Q3 2011.

Total tablet shipments are expected to reach 59m units by the end of 2011, with Q4 volumes predicted to exceed 22m. While the iPad will dominate in Q4, the recently announced Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet are also anticipated to impact the US market.

“Apple has seen its PC market share expand from 9pc to 15pc in just four quarters, though iPad shipments in its core market – the United States – are likely to come under pressure in Q4 due to the launch of the Fire and Nook at extremely competitive price points,” said Canalys analyst Tim Coulling.

HP and Apple will fight for top position in Q4, but Apple may have to wait for the release of iPad 3 before it passes HP.”

Vendors overall, though, are struggling to compete profitably with Apple, as many toil to produce comparable devices at attractive prices. The release of Android 4.0 (ICS) should, however, bolster tier 1 manufacturers, as combining smartphone and tablet operating systems will enable developers to adapt existing applications to run on tablets.

Conversely, the release’s timing may harm vendors looking to capitalise on strong holiday season sales. Much of the IT channel’s stock now runs on older versions of Android 3.1, and many vendors are not forthcoming with upgrade timescales, which will deter informed consumers.

Ultrabooks to drive notebook sales over the next five years

Notebook sales also helped fuel market growth in 2011, with total shipments anticipated to hit 211m, a 10pc year-on-year increase. Canalys expects ultrabooks, bringing much needed innovation to the category, to drive notebook sales over the next five years. With their differentiated appearance, ultrabooks should spur some consumers to upgrade their existing notebooks.

“For ultrabooks to become widespread, prices have to drop considerably,” said Canalys Research Analyst Michael Kauh. “The least expensive models are currently around $800, a real barrier to mass consumer uptake. As more vendors embrace the ultrabook design, component costs should drop and mainstream consumer prices will be achieved.”

On a regional level, Canalys forecasts North America PC shipments to reach 103m for the whole of 2011, with 32m units expected in Q4. Overall volumes in 2011 are anticipated to grow 18pc year-on-year because of the ongoing popularity of tablets. Excluding tablets, the market is predicted to grow at less than 1pc for the year. The United States’ ongoing economic problems have resulted in prices falling to their lowest levels since 2009.

Canalys anticipates the EMEA PC market – excluding tablets – to contract in 2011 at an annual rate of 6pc, although volumes will peak for the year at 30m in Q4. Western Europe is largely responsible for the regional decline because of investor concerns over sovereign debt issues in the Euro Zone. As with the US market, ongoing economic issues will continue to have a negative impact on consumer confidence levels, affecting shipments in Q4 and beyond.

Canalys expects high growth in Latin America and Asia Pacific in Q4, with total volumes for 2011 predicted to reach 40m and 153m. Overall, the BRIC countries will account for 28pc of worldwide PC shipments in 2011.

The Canalys PC market forecast for 2012 highlights challenging conditions during the first half of 2012, as flooding in Thailand continues to severely impact the global hard-disk market. Thailand is responsible for around 40–45pc of the world’s hard disk production, and the business disruption has already led to price rises.

Hard-drive shortages will further reduce inventories and shipments of desktops, netbooks and notebooks in the coming quarters. Canalys believes side effects will include a boost in solid-state drive (SSD) production and lower prices that will benefit tablet and ultrabook vendors. 

John Kennedy