Did Apple Affect First Quarter PC Sales?

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Gartner Inc. (NYSE:IT), the world’s leading information technology research and advisory company, announced late Wednesday that worldwide personal computer shipments totaled 89 million units in the first quarter of 2012, representing a 1.9 percent increase from a year earlier. The results exceeded the company’s earlier projection of a 1.2 percent decline. However, there is still a cause for concern among PC focused companies.

“The results were mixed depending on the region, as we saw the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) region perform better than expected with PC shipments growing 6.7 percent in the first quarter of 2012, while Asia/Pacific performed below expectations, in part because of slow growth in India and China,” explained Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner, in a press release. PC shipments reached 30.3 million units in the Asia/Pacific region for the first quarter, representing only a 2 percent increase from a year earlier. Meanwhile, the PC market in Latin America declined 3.2 percent.

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Although hard-disk drive supply shortages were present in the first quarter, Gartner said it had a “limited impact on PC supply.” Instead, the company notes more competition for consumers’ budgets. The report explained, “Although PC vendors typically experience low consumer PC sales in the first quarter, Gartner’s preliminary results reveal worse-than-normal consumer PC shipment growth. The weak consumer PC demand is in part because of intensified competition for consumers’ budgets. Device vendors that focus on a limited product line will get only a small portion of the consumer wallet. Companies such as Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) can be clear winners because of comprehensive product/service offerings, which gain a large part of consumers’ spending.” Apple launched their highly anticipated new iPad in the first quarter, which may have steered consumers away from other PC purchases.

Despite recent internal management issues, Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE:HPQ) increased its share as the global market leader in PC shipments. The company’s first quarter market share increased to 17.2 percent, compared to 16.9 percent a year earlier. Lenovo increased its market share to 13.1 percent from 10.4 percent in the same period. Meanwhile, Dell Inc. (NASDAQ:DELL) lost market share from a year earlier, declining from 11.4 percent to 11 percent. Gartner analysts said early indications suggest that Dell’s relatively low shipments were mainly due to low-end consumer systems, which had low priority. Dell seems to be more focused toward selling to businesses.

The popularity of the new iPad may have been most felt in the United States, where PC shipments declined 3.5 percent to 15.5 million units, compared to almost 16.1 million a year earlier. Kitagawa explained in the press release, “Questions remain on whether low-end systems can attract consumers, as their attention has moved to other devices.” In its first weekend of release, the new iPad sold more than 3 million units. It was the strongest iPad launch to date, more than tripling iPad 2 sales during its first weekend. Furthermore, Gartner says the PC industry is awaiting the release of Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) Ivy Bridge and Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows 8. While it appears that Apple certainly affected PC sales in the first quarter, there is a combination of factors weighing on the PC industry.

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