CONFIRMED: HP Still PC King But Demand ‘Weak’

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PCs are in a slump – with Ultrabooks failing to catch on. Global PC shipments totaled 92m units in Q4, a 1.4% decline from 2010, according to Gartner.

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Can Ultrabooks alight the PC market in 2012?

The global decline is reverse of the recent growth spurt recorded over the previous two quarters of 2011. 

This fall was due to “continuously low” consumer demand and global financial crisis, and Ultrabook failing to alight consumer interest so far, say analysts.

Consumers’ attention has also diverted away from the traditional desk and laptops towards mobile devices like smartphones and media tablets, like Apple’s iPad and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab.

Troubled PC giant HP retained its No. 1 vendor position in the quarter with 16%, although shipments fell a worrying 16.2% compared to comparable 2010 figures. 

“While the company’s new CEO, Meg Whitman, cleared up some confusion surrounding its PC business, its 4Q results were affected by the noise around this issue,” Gartner noted. 

HP also had to battle against “aggressive pricing” from competitors including ambitious Chinese giant, Lenovo, who are creeping up the PC charts – accounting for 14% marketshare – marking an impressive 23% growth spurt for the IdeaPad maker.

Dell and Acer followed with over 12% and 10% share respectively. US giant Dell also enjoyed a good quarter in most regions particularly in the professional sector, driven by upgrades to Windows 7.

The Asia/Pacific continued to be the major growth market for Dell, as it achieved 30 percent growth in the region.

Asus held on to No. 5 position despite generally weak consumer sales but its shift from mini-notebooks to regular notebooks was successful, with almost 80% of Asus’ PC shipments being notebooks in the quarter.

“Continuously low consumer PC demand resulted in weak holiday PC shipments,” said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst.

And even growth in emerging markets could not compensate for the weaknesses in mature markets in the professional computer market.

 

And Ultrabooks, the new slimline laptop category, was far from the ‘cure for all’ for computer makers, including its creator Intel, as well as Acer and Asus, whom have released models here in Australia.

“Ultrabooks didn’t seem to draw consumers’ attention. Consumers had very little understanding and awareness of Ultrabooks, and only a small group of consumers was willing to pay the price premium for such models,” Kitagawa added.

However, this could all soon change as 2012 marks a big debut stage for the slimmer, lighter PC category as has been seen this week at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) show, the analysts noted.

And it looks like 2012 will also be the year of the tablet judging by the number of tabs vendors are banging out at CES including Lenovo, Toshiba and Samsung. 

But there are also other issues the PC industry may face in 2012.

The shortage in hard-disk drives (HDD) caused by floods in Thailand late last year has had a limited effect on shipments and prices, although the analysts expect the full impact of the disaster to be felt in the first half of 2012 and could continue throughout the year – meaning a possible further slump in an already struggling PC market.

In the Asia/Pacific, PC shipments actually grew 30.4 million units, an 8.5% increase from Q 4 2010 – the only region globally where growth was positive.

 

However, there was weaker shipment growth in China, India and Thailand, Gartner noted.

The Gartner data includes desktop, laptops, including mini-notebooks although excludes tablets. However, these figures are preliminary only so we’ll know more in coming weeks.

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