Frightening fondleslabs branded Hannibal Lecter of UK PC market

'Cannibalising' tablets chomp on desktop, notebook jugulars

The classic PC industry in Blighty is down but not yet out for the count, according to the latest IT distribution channel data.

Prelim numbers from Context SalesWatch shows 960,000 notebooks, desktops, x86 servers and workstations were sold in Q1 2013, a decline of 4.8 per cent on a year ago. Market revenues fell 3.4 per cent to £450m.

But add a magic tablet and suddenly the UK market swelled - 596,000 tabs were flogged to resellers and retailers in the quarter - up 230 per cent - helping to expand total PC unit sales by 39 per cent and pushing up revenues by 16.8 per cent to £600m.

Veteran analyst Jeremy Davies, CEO at Context, said there is no doubt fondle-tech is "cannibalising" sales from the traditional PC - but questioned whether tabs, possibly seen in the same light as cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter, will become the dominant platform in the long term.

"Apart from desktops, PCs were incredibly resilient in the quarter," he told The Channel. "People talk about the death [of the form factor] but I'm not so sure that is right."

Davies added that other pretenders to the PC crown had come and gone, with the last entrant, netbooks, now almost extinct.

IDC is less sanguine about the future growth prospects in the traditional PC market, particularly desktops, which are forecast to decline five per cent between 2012 and 2017.

Context data for Q1 revealed a 4.9 per cent fall in notebook sales, though revenues climbed 0.1 per cent to £275m.

Desktop unit sales dropped 1.7 per cent and the market value dipped 0.7 per cent to £95m. Server sales dropped 5.5 per cent and their worth fell 15.7 per cent to £59m. Workstation units slid 5.1 per cent and the segment revenues dropped 1.5 per cent to £8m.

Davies said vendors are "pumping out" low cost tabs "because they think they [the tabs] will continue selling like hot cakes. Let's see how it pans out over the next few quarters".

The venerable bean-counter was however surprised tabs continued to sell well in the seasonally slower Q1, following a bumper Q4 when distributors sold 1.9m units to retailers and -to a lesser extent - resellers.

Alex Tatham, sales and marketing director at Westcoast, said it shifted a shedload of tabs in Q1 2013 but claimed: "There's still plenty of interest in PCs."

At his company, anyway. ®

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