RealTime IT News

PC Sales Leap More Than 20% in Q4

It was a very merry fourth quarter for PC vendors, as both Gartner and IDC reported this week that fourth quarter PC sales growth exceeded 20 percent year-over-year. The difference in figures between the two firms is minimal and by and large their figures match.

IDC said 85.8 million units shipped in the fourth quarter of 2009, for year-over-year growth of 24 percent. Gartner had the figure a little higher, with worldwide Q4 sales of 90 million units for 22.1 percent growth.

According to both firms, it was the strongest quarter-over-quarter growth rate the worldwide PC market has experienced in the last seven years, on top of the excellent YoY growth. However, that comes with the caveat that these numbers are being compared against Q4 2008, which was when the economy collapsed. It has been slowly recovering ever since.

The fourth quarter is typically the strongest of the year as it is the holiday season. Add to it the October 22 launch of Windows 7, and the numbers seem logical. But both IDC and Gartner say that overall, Windows 7 had little impact, although there has been other research to the contrary.

"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," said IDC in a statement.

"Windows 7 didn't create additional PC shipments," Mika Kitagawa, principal analyst for PC systems at Gartner, told InternetNews.com. "People didn't buy PCs because a new OS was released. But the timing was great and it was a great marketing tool for the channel and PC vendors."

Windows 7 was a big launch in the U.S., and vendors did a good job of clearing out old Vista and XP-based systems, but around the world, the two older operating systems can still be found on a number of machines, she added.

The U.S. market showed the strongest growth, up 26.5 percent by Gartner's measure and 24 percent by IDC's measure. The Europe, Middle East, Africa (EMEA) area bounced back thanks to strong holiday sales of netbooks and other lower-cost portables.

Japan, currently undergoing its own economic problems, saw a modest 4.3 percent growth thanks to low-priced portables. The rest of Asia/Pacific jumped 31 percent, led by China. Dell was particularly strong in APAC, up 24 percent.

As for the vendors, Toshiba, an all-laptop vendor, saw the best growth of the bunch, up 70.7 percent YoY by Gartner's measure and 71.5 percent by IDC's. HP (NYSE: HPQ) retained its leadership with 45.9/45.1 percent YoY according to Gartner/IDC, respectively.

Dell comes up short

Limping into second place in terms of units was Dell (NASDAQ: DELL), the only vendor not to enjoy double-digit growth. Gartner had it up 5.5 percent while IDC had it up 5.3 percent. Kitagawa said it's because of Dell's emphasis on business over consumer and higher priced product that Dell didn't ride the bigger wave.

"It takes a while to get into the market, especially the retail space. The retail space is much more competitive than before and Dell is relatively new there. Also, Dell doesn't want to play in low-priced systems, and the market is really price-driven. If you don't play in a low price system you won't increase market share," she said.

For the year, Gartner has Dell as losing 9.1 percent marketshare, while IDC said it lost 9.4 percent marketshare. It was the only top five vendor to lose ground in 2009.

Gartner has Acer growing 41.5 percent year-over-year in Q4, mostly due to its netbook business, and Lenovo up a strong 42 percent. Kitagawa said it was the first time the firm made serious progress outside its native China, expanding its consumer and low-cost laptop offerings.

Apple remains a top five vendor in the U.S. but its market is largely confined to the U.S. and Japan. It enjoyed 8.2 percent growth in 2009, not bad for a company that sells a premium product, and held 8.0 percent of the market.

Andy Patrizio is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.