FRAMINGHAM, USA: Led by a holiday season featuring price cuts of unprecedented duration, the US PC market established a new record of nearly 20.7 million units shipped in the fourth quarter of 2009 (4Q09), resulting in year-on-year growth of 24 percent.
Other regions also experienced solid growth, particularly emerging markets in Asia/Pacific and Latin America, leading the global market to 15.2 percent year-on-year growth for the quarter. According to IDC's Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker, this marked the first quarter of double-digit volume growth since 3Q08. The fourth quarter results cap a strong second half of 2009, further cementing signs of a market revival and ending the year with year-on-year growth of 2.3 percent.
In addition to the continuation of price declines throughout the year, other factors were in play for the fourth quarter. Following a stream of improving economic indicators which began in 3Q09, a release of pent-up demand was evident as buyers focused on a vast array of value-oriented notebooks that dominated the channel landscape in the holiday season.
"The US market exploded in the fourth quarter, driven by a series of factors contributing to the unexpected 24 percent year-on-year growth. First is the rubber-band effect and recovery from the year-ago quarter, which suffered from buyer contraction when the economic crisis was confirmed. The vendors responded with new low price points to stimulate demand and face competition.
"In this context, low-cost notebooks and mininotebooks were the biggest contributors to the successful fourth quarter. Once again, the consumer market overcame the weak commercial sector to save the quarter," says David Daoud, research manager, US Quarterly PC Tracker.
"The market has weathered a storm which looks to be behind us," says Jay Chou, research analyst, Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker. "But salvaging decreasing margins will soon become even more pertinent as one considers the long-term effects of holding market share at the cost of profitability. Without an effective strategy to convey a clear usage model and feature set tied to each segment, the market will inevitably continue down the slippery slope of 'good-enough' computing sold to the lowest bidder."
United States – Vendor focus has been on the consumer market, targeting buyers with feature-rich SKUs at commodity-level prices. In addition to the low-price points, consumer spending was stimulated by better sentiment than in the year-ago quarter, despite lingering uncertainly over the economy.
The launch of Windows 7 provided additional help, albeit moderate, with the solid marketing campaign initiated by the industry to lure customers back into the stores. However, like most regions, business spending will take more time to take hold, as commercial entities wait for tangible signs of sustained economic growth before launching a new refresh cycle.
Europe, Middle East, Africa (EMEA) – After three quarters of yearly declines, the EMEA PC market returned to positive territory based on strong holiday sales of mininotebooks and other lower-cost portables.
Japan – Slightly above forecast, the market grew 4.3 percent with lower-priced Portables being the main driver for consumer-oriented vendors like Acer. Major Japanese vendors also saw above-market growth thanks in part to wins in the Education sector, although overall business spending remained stagnant.
Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan) – Still led the globe in year-on-year growth at 31 percent, as bellwethers like China spearheaded the region's economic recovery as well as overall solid regional consumer interest in PCs.
* HP displayed above-market performance in all regions except EMEA, with particularly strong shipments in the US from holiday retail sales. It also gained double-digit growth in the emerging markets of Asia/Pacific and Latin America.
* Dell was able to get back into positive territory after four quarters of yearly declines. The vendor managed overall growth of 5 percent and gains of 24 percent in Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan).
* Acer grew 28 percent worldwide thanks to its dominance in mininotebooks, which have become more pervasive throughout the channel. Its early entrance into Ultra-Thin Portable PCs also has it clearly positioned to benefit from a market which will be largely price driven for the foreseeable future.
* Lenovo was able to grow well in its main markets of Asia/Pacific and EMEA, reaping sizable overall year-on-year growth of nearly 42 percent. Its restructuring in Japan also seemed to have paid off as 4Q09 was the second quarter of double digit yearly growth there.
* Toshiba's focus on portable PCs paid dividends as it saw overall growth of 30 percent with solid growth in all regions except EMEA.Source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker, January 13, 2010
Some IDC estimates prior to financial earnings reports.
Shipments include shipments to distribution channels or end users. OEM sales are counted under the vendor/brand under which they are sold.
PCs include Desktops, Portables, Mininotebooks and do not include handhelds and x86 Servers. Data for all vendors are reported for calendar periods.
Data for Acer includes shipments for Gateway's Consumer business starting in Q4 2007, and only Acer data for prior quarters. This reflects the legal status of the companies, which merged during the fourth quarter of 2007.
Data for Acer also includes shipments for Packard Bell starting in Q1 2008, and only Acer (including Gateway Consumer but not Packard Bell) data for prior quarters. This reflects the legal status of the companies, which merged during the first quarter of 2008.
IDC's Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker gathers PC market data in 55 countries by vendor, form factor, brand, processor brand and speed, sales channel and user segment. The research includes historical and forecast trend analysis as well as price band and installed base data.