Global PC market contracts in 1Q but swaths of growth remain

Wednesday, 20 April 2011 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

A myriad of factors contributed to the first contraction in the worldwide PC market since the end of the recent recession.

Global PC shipments declined 3.2% during the first quarter of 2011 (1Q11) compared to the same time last year, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker. Although the forecast for the quarter was already conservative – IDC expected a mere 1.5% growth in shipments – a steady but still cautious business mentality and waning consumer enthusiasm persisted. A spike in fuel and commodity prices and the disruptions in Japan added to the mix, further dampening a market struggling to maintain momentum.

The PC market showed clear indications that after more than a year of impressive purchases, frugality tinged with a shift of focus will be the norm for the time being. Despite promising economic sentiments, mature regions appear to be more focused on necessary replacements as a relative dearth of compelling reasons were present to buy secondary PCs. Emerging markets fared better due to lower saturation rates, but also slowed somewhat with Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan) slowing to a 5.6% growth and China continuing to cool off after a momentous 2010.

“While the consequences of events in the Middle East and Japan remain unclear, these will surely be factors that will influence short term market performance for 2011,” said Jay Chou, senior research analyst with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker. “Long-term success will depend on hardware manufacturers being able to articulate a message that is beyond simple hardware specifications. ‘Good-enough computing’ has become a firm reality, exemplified first by Mini Notebooks and now Media Tablets. Macroeconomic forces can explain some of the ebb and flow of the PC business, but the real question PC vendors have to think hard about is how to enable a compelling user experience that can justify spending on the added horsepower.”

“The U.S. and worldwide PC market continues to work through a difficult period that we expect will continue into next quarter, but will start to improve in the second half of the year,” said Bob O’Donnell, programme vice president, Clients and Displays. “Slower than expected commercial growth in the first quarter failed to offset the ongoing challenges in the consumer market. While it’s tempting to blame the decline completely on the growth of media tablets, we believe other factors, including extended PC lifetimes and the lack of compelling new PC experiences, played equally significant roles.”

Regional outlook

Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan) – Shipments increased only 5.6% in 1Q11, similar to the trend in the fourth quarter of 2010. Despite the Lunar Year season, China failed to reach double-digit growth. However, other major markets helped to pick up some of the slack.

Japan was slightly below forecast with a year-over-year decline in shipments of 15.9%. Despite an already conservative forecast that reflected a relative lack of public sector projects, the region struggled in part due to supply constraints and the effect of the earthquake which affected much of March.

United States – After strong gains for most of 2010, the market has now seen yet another inflection point in the rubber-band effect of the demand cycle that has become prevalent over the past two years. Demand fell back as buyers shifted focus and shipments declined over 10% compared to last year.

Europe, Middle East, Africa (EMEA) – PC shipments in the EMEA region contracted further than expected in the first quarter, in part the result of continued softness in the consumer space. The business segment also remained cautious, which, combined with sustained high inventory levels in the retail and distribution channel, constrained most vendors’ “sell in” levels this quarter. Growth was expected to remain constrained after a difficult year-on-year comparison and the growth achieved in 1Q10, but demand failed to sustain stronger levels to stimulate higher “sales in” levels in March. The additional impact of the recall of Sandy Bridge systems already in the channel only affected small volumes, but had an adverse impact in terms of cancelled and delayed orders and contributed to some additional disruption.

Vendor outlook

HP declined 2.8% compared to the first quarter of 2010. The vendor managed to outperform most markets, taking advantage of surging demand in Latin America, but struggled in Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan).

Dell experienced disappointing sales in its key markets, including lackluster consumer demand in the U.S. and tepid business volume, but the decline was offset by significant strides in emerging markets, including major wins in PRC. The vendor slightly outperformed the market with volume declining at 1.8%.

Acer was affected by continued turbulence in EMEA, its biggest market. Moreover, the vendor is stilling feeling the pullback in the Mini Notebook and Consumer space, while its upcoming tablets have yet to fill in the void. In the U.S., Acer also ceded its place to a surging Apple in the US.

Lenovo significantly outperformed the market with shipments posting 16.3% growth. The vendor continued its dominance in Asia/Pacific while maintaining a disciplined channel expansion in other markets. Both its Desktop and Portable PCs grew in double digits compared to the same quarter in 2010.

Toshiba finished 1Q11 with 3.8% growth. Its unwavering focus on solid designs in the Portable PC space and a relative lack of exposure in the Mini Notebook segment helped it to keep on a steadier course. Solid gains were reported in all markets except EMEA.

Tablet market

seen surging to $49 b by 2015

HELSINKI (Reuters) - The global tablet computer market, born last year with Apple’s iPad, will grow to a $49-billion business by 2015, research firm Strategy Analytics said.

The tablet computer market will become the third largest consumer electronics sector, after televisions and personal computers, the research firm said, forecasting 149 million units will be sold in 2015, growing eightfold from 2010.

“Tablets are a high-value casual-computing segment that is creating huge growth opportunities for major brands, such as Apple and Samsung,” said analyst Neil Mawston.

Estimates on market growth vary widely — the view is still only half of Gartner’s 294 million unit forecast for 2015, issued last week.

Apple’s iPad is expected to dominate the market for years, with Samsung Electronics a distant second.

Apple is estimated to have sold about 1 million iPad 2s in the first weekend of its U.S. launch last month. Samsung may have sold a similar number of its Galaxy Tabs in the past three months and sales growth is expected to lag.

On Monday Apple sued Samsung for copying its products in its tablets and smartphones using the Galaxy brand.