PC shipments jump in the fourth quarter, IDC says

Worldwide PC shipments soared during the fourth quarter, driven by historically low PC prices and an increased demand for laptops and netbooks, analyst firm IDC said Wednesday

Shipments totaled 85.8 million units during the fourth quarter of 2009, growing 15.2 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2008. The unexpected growth signals a possible end to the struggles the PC industry has gone through during the recession, IDC said in a statement.

A number of factors contributed to the jump in PC shipments, said David Daoud, research manager at IDC. Consumers held back on buying PCs during the year and the low prices stimulated demand, which encouraged people to open up wallets, he said. PC makers also fought for customers by continually dropping prices.

Consumer demand for low-cost laptops and mini-notebooks, or netbooks, is growing, although IDC did not have detailed figures for worldwide laptop and netbook shipments. However, the research firm said portable PC shipments would total about 126.2 million in 2009.

However, low PC prices resulted in decreased margins for PC makers, who are trying to hold market share at the expense of profitability, IDC said. Spending in the higher-margin commercial sector was weak.

Shipments during the fourth quarter grew across the world, IDC said. They expanded by 24 percent in the U.S., totalling 20.7 million units. The launch of Microsoft's Windows 7 OS was a big contributor to the gains, with buyers influenced by the positive publicity around the OS and vendors offering feature-rich PCs at low prices.

However, Asia-Pacific, minus Japan, remained the growth engine for PCs with shipments growing by 30 percent during the fourth quarter. Shipments in EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) grew for the first time in three quarters, while Japan grew by 4.6 percent.

Hewlett-Packard was the top PC vendor during the fourth quarter, followed by Acer, Dell, Lenovo and Toshiba. Acer's shipments were dominated by mini-notebooks and low-cost laptops, while Dell managed to record positive gains for the first time in four quarters. Of all PC vendors, Lenovo recorded the fastest growth rate of 41.8 percent as it reaped the benefits of increased shipments in the emerging markets of Asia and Latin America.

HP's shipments grew by 23.3 percent to reach 18 million units, a 21 percent market share. Acer, which in the third quarter overtook Dell for second place, continued its meteoric rise, with shipments growing 27.9 percent to reach 11.46 million units, a 13.4 percent market share. Dell continued to struggle, with its shipments growing by just 5.2 percent to reach 10.68 million units. Lenovo's shipments tallied 7.87 million units, while Toshiba's shipments grew 30 percent to reach 4.81 million units.

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