Worldwide PC shipments totaled 89 million units in the first quarter of 2012, a 1.9% increase from the first quarter of 2011, when shipments reached 87.3 million units, according to preliminary results by Gartner. These results exceed Gartner's earlier projections of a 1.2% decline for the quarter. According to analysts from International Data Corp., shipments of PCs increased 2.3% year-over-year.
"In general, the hard-disk drive (HDD) supply shortage had a limited impact on PC supply during Q1 2012. There was a moderate impact on selected markets, such as low-end consumer notebooks and the white-box market in selected regions. Still, low PC demand was able to mask the tight HDD supply overall," said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner.
IDC claims that HDD supply remained a key constraint through most of the first quarter, although PC makers generally had better access to drives than customers in the retail and distribution channels. As a result, large PC vendors were able to maintain shipments by managing inventory or absorbing price increases, while the impact to shipments from smaller PC makers was in line with expectations.
Although PC vendors typically experience low consumer PC sales in the first quarter, Gartner's preliminary results reveal worse-than-normal consumer PC shipment growth. The weak consumer PC demand is in part because of intensified competition for consumers' budgets. Device vendors that focus on a limited product line will get only a small portion of the consumer wallet. Companies such as Apple can be clear winners because of comprehensive product/service offerings, which gain a large part of consumers' spending.
HP Remains No. 1 as Asustek and Lenovo Show Unprecedented Shipments Growth
HP increased its share as the global market leader, as it accounted for 17.2% of worldwide PC shipments in the first quarter of 2012. HP was able to secure HDD inventory, unlike Q4 2011 when it was faced with a shortage issue. HP's growth also indicates that internal management issues were resolved, and analysts said it appears HP was able to restore some of the business it lost as a result of those issues.
Lenovo experienced the strongest growth among the top five vendors, as its shipments increased 28.1% in the first quarter of 2012, according to Gartner. Lenovo has been enjoying healthy growth in the professional market, while the company successfully expanded into the consumer space. IDC believes that Lenovo has managed to capitalize on the missteps of others in the PC market. The company has continued to expand its channel reach in the Americas and Europe, while still gaining ground in Asia/Pacific.
Dell underperformed in most regions compared with a year ago. For the first time in two years, Dell experienced a year-over-year shipment decline in the Asia/Pacific market. Gartner analysts said early indications suggest that Dell's relatively low shipments were mainly due to low-end consumer systems, to which Dell gave low priority. Dell's investments seem to be more focused toward businesses.
Acer's shipments declined 3.7% in Q2 2012, trailing the market but improving on the past year, believes IDC. Although its inventory issues have largely cleared, it will nevertheless take some time for Acer to mend its channel relationships as it prepares for renewed demand toward the end of the year.
Asustek Computer continued to see strong gains in Asia/Pacific and EMEA, which represent the large majority of its shipments, according to findings from IDC. Although its U.S. business barely changed from a year ago, the vendor has stepped in to fill the void left by other vendors, making inroads that it may be able to build on going forward.
Toshiba saw solid growth in EMEA and Japan, but its global shipments declined as a result of poor shipments in the U.S., reports IDC.
The U.S. PC Market Growth Declines by 3.5%
In the U.S., PC shipments totaled 15.5 million units in the first quarter of 2012, a 3.5% decline from the same period last year. Gartner analysts had expected the market to decline 6.1% in the quarter.
"The consumer segment continued to be a drag on market growth, as PC demand was low. The HDD supply shortage moderately impacted the very low-end consumer notebook market, so channels could not run aggressive promotions with very low-end systems. Questions remain on whether low-end systems can attract consumers, as their attention has moved to other devices," said Ms. Kitagawa from Gartner.
HP experienced the strongest growth among the top five vendors in the U.S., as its shipments grew 6.6%, and its market share reached 29% in the quarter. Apple was the only other vendor among the top five to show growth in the quarter, as its shipments increased 3.8%.
"Slow growth in the U.S. shows that despite interesting and new form factors like all-in-one (AIO) desktop PCs and Ultrabook– class notebook PCs, the market remains conservative and focused on replacements. Commercial buyers are still cautious, while consumers are evaluating multiple products and may be waiting for the release of Microsoft Windows 8 later this year. The U.S. PC market is likely to remain constrained at least until the launch of Windows 8, which is expected in the fourth quarter of 2012. We expect vendors, retailers, and channel partners to be working very hard this year to focus their product lines and their general operations as they prepare for the year-end holiday season, because that alone will likely determine if there is any growth at all in the U.S. market in 2012," explained Mr. Laverde from IDC.
Shipments of PCs in EMEA Increase 6.7%
PC shipments in EMEA totaled 28.2 million units in the first quarter of 2012, a 6.7% increase from the same period last year.
"The EMEA PC market grew faster than the worldwide PC market because of solid demand from the professional market as organisations executed long-awaited Windows 7 plans. Demand came from Western Europe as well as emerging markets, and it strengthened the desk-based PC market. Gartner estimates that the EMEA desk-based PC market will account for 40% of total PC shipments in 2012. The desk-based PC isn't dead yet," said Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner.
Growth in PC shipments to Central and Eastern Europe was slightly higher than expected, with improved demand from Russia and members of the Commonwealth of Independent States, and more modest upturns in other countries. The Middle East and Africa also had an upbeat quarter, with spending returning to the consumer market.
Although there was no change in the ranking of the top five vendors, vendors' performances varied. HP not only retained the No. 1 position, but increased its market share and its lead over its closest rivals, Acer and Dell. Lenovo exhibited the best growth, thanks to solid increases across its desk-based and mobile PC lines. Acer continued to reduce its inventory levels, and was the only top-five vendor to show a decline.
Overall, the EMEA PC market had a very weak 2011, not helped by the shortage of HDDs. However, the relative stability of the economic environment gave vendors an opportunity to replenish inventory and meet demand for professional PCs.
Other Regions Show Mixed Results
In Asia/Pacific, PC shipments reached 30.3 million units in the first quarter of 2012, a 2% increase from the first quarter of 2011. In China, shipments of desk-based PCs decreased significantly as there was no longer a rural PC program in place to drive demand. In India, the Tamil Nadu deal, operated by local government to provide free laptops to students, was supposed to be executed in the first quarter, but it has been postponed to subsequent quarters.
The PC market in Latin America declined 3.2% in the first quarter of 2012, as shipments totaled 9 million units. Mobile PC shipments grew 0.4% over the first quarter of 2011, while desk-based PC shipments decreased 7.6%. Many white-box PC vendors had depleted inventory due to the HDD shortage.
PC shipments in Japan grew 11.5% in the first quarter of 2012, as shipments reached 4.4 million units. The double-digit growth was due in part to the very weak performance in Q1 2011, which was affected by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March of last year.
"The first quarter of 2012 was a transitional period as the PC industry is awaiting two big releases: Intel's Ivy Bridge and Microsoft's Windows 8. Both are expected to be launched this year. Although these new releases are not expected to stimulate demand as much as the industry hopes, they will affect PC supply so that there will be artificial supply control before and after the product releases. There will be few products rolled out into the market until these major releases have taken place," Ms. Kitagawa said.