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Shoppers shun slabs to give Gartner's Q3 PC numbers a rosy glow

Death of XP and new form factors mean sales down just half a point

PC-shifters that hung tough in the hope the market would return to growth may have reasons to be cheerful – in certain parts of the world, anyway.

Q3 shipment data from Gartner - or at least preliminary numbers that count sales into retailers and distributors, rather than to end-users - climbed 9.6 per cent in EMEA, jumped 4.2 per cent in the US but fell 5.3 per cent in Asia Pacific, the world’s largest consumer of computers.

All in all this resulted in a 0.5 per cent year-on-year decline in unit sales to 79.8 million boxes, which relative to the double digit declines of recent years smells like something of a mini-recovery.

Quarter-on-quarter, sales were up four per cent, Gartner told us, but this was “just below” seasonality - but then again historic trends have gone out of the window since late 2010.

A weak comparison period a year ago helped to flatter the figures, said Ranjit Atwal, research director at the abacus-stroking firm, but there is no denying the positive impact of a certain OS going end of life in April.

“We’ve seen the professional segment refresh on XP continue to wash through, but there is also an uptick on the consumer side, partly to do with lower notebook prices, thin and light, touch and slowing demand for tablets.”

These trends were seen across mature markets but in Asia Pacific the market “remained challenging” the analyst said, particularly in China where the appetite for PCs slowed due to “more pragmatic consumer and government IT spending”.

All the of the top five PC players reported swelling sales in the quarter, benefiting from the marekt dynamics.

Lenovo extended its lead over HP - which is preparing to create a separate company for its PC and printer business - by growing 11.4 per cent to grab a 19.8 per cent share of the market spoils.

HP grew 4.4 per cent but it too obviously gained share by outpacing the industry average, grabbing 17.9 per cent of all units shipped. Dell was up 9.7 per cent to 12.8 per cent market share. And benefiting from rising consumer PC spending, Acer and Asus grew nine per cent and 16.9 per cent respectively to sit in the fourth and the fifth spots.

The ‘Others’ segment declined 15.5 per cent - the likes of Sony and Samsung have all but pulled out of the market which is likely responsible for the steep drops.

According to Gartner’s final numbers, the worldwide PC market declined two per cent year-on-year in Q1, was down 0.5 per cent in Q2 and the same again, in its prelims.

Atwal said the industry needed a bumper Christmas with consumer feasting on devices. “We expect a one per cent decline in global sales for 2014 but to get to that we need a positive Q4”.

Whether the Christmas elves can deliver that for the major brands across all regions is the million dollar question. Recent history suggests PC-makers Christmas stockings will contain lumps of coal, not sparkling sales figures. ®

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