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US shoppers abandon PC makers in hour of need

Global sales fall for 13th straight quarter

America’s PC market sneezed in Q4 calendar and the rest of the world caught a cold: global sales declined in the final three months of last year, stats from Gartner indicated – although rival IDC did not concur.

Shipments into the channel – retailers and tech distributors – dropped 2 per cent year-on-year to 71.6 million, according to Gartner. This was based on growth in Asia and Latin America, a minor decline in EMEA and an 8 per cent drop in the US.

“The US saw a steep decline, which offset the generally positive results in other regions,” said Mikako Kitagawa, Gartner principal analyst.

Four of the top five vendors in the US reported declines - US and global PC market leader HP Inc was the only one that didn’t. Weak consumer demand was at fault as shoppers opted for voice-enabled speakers and smartphones. “PCs are no longer popular holiday gift items,” Kitagawa said.

“US consumer confidence was high… but that did not influence PC demand,” he added. “PCs simply could not compete against these gifts during the holiday season.”

On the global stage, Lenovo remained on HP’s coattail in second spot, followed by Dell, Apple, Asus and Acer. Gartner didn’t go into any detail on the Asia Pacific, Latin American or EMEA regions. IDC stats agreed with this summary.

This was the 13th consecutive quarter of declines, said Gartner.

For the year, PC shipments fell 2.8 per cent to 262.5 million boxes with the top four vendors accounting for 64 per cent of all sales, compared to 45 per cent in 2011.

During that period, Samsung bowed out of selling PCs in Europe, Sony retreated to Japan, and Toshiba also pulled out of the consumer lappie sector in Europe.

IDC pegged PC sales in Q4 at 70.6 million, growing 0.7 per cent year-on-year. It too blamed the US for pulling down the sector, but said EMEA “continued to gain strength”; Asia Pacific sales beat forecasts.

Research manager Jay Chou said PCs that “promised all-day battery life and high portability”, along with “emerging use cases that require more compute power” meant that “pockets of the consumer base are taking a serious look at these revamped PCs“.

He added: “However, the overall PC market remains a challenging one.”

For the whole year, IDC said the market declined 0.2 per cent to 259.5 million units. ®

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