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Pads propel PC market growth

Q1 shipments jump matched by tablet numbers

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World PC'n'pad shipments were up seven per cent during Q1 2011, market watcher Canalys said today. And, interestingly, seven per cent of the devices counted were tablets.

Shipments made during the quarter topped 88.6m units, up from 82.8m in Q1 2010. Some 6.4m tablets shipped during the quarter, higher than the unit increase. It's hard to conclude, then, that the industry's growth didn't come largely from tablets alone.

Given the seasonal nature of the business, you'd expect fewer shipments in the year's first quarter than the final quarter of the previous year. Canalys pegs Q4 2010 PC volumes at 105.8m units - 19.4 per cent higher than the following quarter's total - but Q4 2010 was also up 19.2 per cent up year on year.

In short, growing confidence in the improving world economy wasn't strong enough to lift the market as much as the Christmas Spirit had.

But these are vendor shipments, and they were hindered by overstocked retail channels in the US and Europe. Punters and businesses - the latter in particular, hence the rise of Dell - will have bought more than these numbers suggest.

This seasonal shift knocked Apple, for one. In Q4 2010, it was third in the table, according to Canalys, but this time round slipped into fourth, swapping places with Dell. HP once again topped the chart, with Acer again achieving second place.

Lenovo retained its fifth-place ranking.

Their shares: HP (16.6 per cent), Acer (12.8), Dell (11.3), Apple (9.5) and Lenovo (9.2). Acer maintained its share of the market exactly, on a sequential basis, as did Lenovo. Dell gained a little - it was at 10.8 per cent in Q4 - but HP and Apple fell, from 17.7 per cent and 10.8 per cent, respectively.

Year on year, all five increase their market shares - Apple in particular. In Q1 2010, its global market share was just 3.5 per cent.

Such is the power of the 'Pad.

Perhaps the moral of the story is that it should have shipped the iPad 2 sooner. iPad sales were down 31 per cent in the quarter, in part thanks to strong sales in Q4 2010 but also because World+Dog was reporting the new version's Q1 introduction, and the quarter was done before the iPad 2 was shipping in volume.

Still, it's the tablet's year. "As the iPad 2 and its competitors continue to roll out, we expect pad sales to propel PC market growth for the rest of the year," said Canalys Analyst Tim Coulling.

Coulling added that Canalys' survey of tablet users reveals that they are not buying such products merely to consume media, but run a much broader array of app types, a pattern that "reinforces the pad’s role as a general-purpose computing device, and much more than just a consumption device

"The pad represents a real threat to PC and consumer electronics vendors, as it is capable of replacing devices in a range of other categories."

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