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PC shipments sag below Q3 targets

Apple now number three in the US

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The global PC business is slowing down a bit faster than the prognosticators at IDC expected, thanks to sheepish consumers who are too spooked to let go of their cash.

In the quarter that ended in September, IDC reckons that global PC shipments rose by 11 per cent to 89.7 million units. That was nearly three points lower growth than IDC was anticipating.

The slowdown was largely attributable to consumers, and particularly those in the US. PC sales were up 11 per cent in the second quarter and were projected to rise that much again this quarter, but rose by only 3.8 per cent. The good news is that Japan did better than expected (thanks largely to businesses buying new PCs), corporations were plodding along at a steady pace with their Windows 7 upgrades, and across most regions (including the US), PC shipment growth was up sequentially.

HP was the market leader, with 15.8 million notebooks, netbooks, and desktops shipped, but it was down one-tenth of one per cent from the year-ago quarter. Blame Mark Hurd.

Acer grew by 7 per cent, maintaining its number-two position globally with 11.6 million boxes sold, followed by Dell, up 9.7 per cent to 11.1 million units. Chinese PC maker Lenovo, which still sells a lot of boxes to former IBM customers but which is riding a wave in its home country, had a stunning 32.9 per cent growth rate, with 9.2 million units pushed out in Q3. Asus, surfing on its netbooks and notebooks, had a nearly equal 30.5 per cent shipment growth rate, to 4.8 million units. Toshiba came in sixth, with 4.7 million units, up 14.6 per cent. So basically, the top three vendors were a drag on the overall market.

Other PC makers — yes, there are other PC makers — accounted for 32.5 million units, or a little more than a third of the market, and matched the average growth of the market at large.

In the United States, the PC market in Q3 was weaker than the global market, with shipments up 3.8 per cent to 18.9 million units. HP was the top shipper with 4.6 million units (up 2.7 per cent), followed by Dell, with 4.3 million units (down 4.9 per cent). Apple continued to be the Cinderella story, with PC shipments up 24.1 per cent in Q3 in the States, kissing 2 million units out the door and putting it slightly ahead of Acer, which was flat in the States during the quarter.

Can you imagine the laughter a decade ago if you said Apple would be the number three PC maker in the US?

Toshiba sold 1.6 million PCs in Q3, and grew by 11.6 per cent. Other vendors accounted for 4.4 million units — a little less than a quarter of the PCs peddled in the quarter — and pulled the overall market down with only 5.7 per cent shipment growth in aggregate.

"Despite a sluggish start, the quarter ended with a good rally in September which could be a good prelude for what is ahead," said Jay Chou, a research analyst at IDC, in a statement accompanying the statistics. "Lower PC component costs, budding excitement around new media-centric form factors, and continued business buying should still make for a competitive holiday season." ®

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