Samsung, Apple only winners as tablets eat into European PC sales

PC sales were weak during the second quarter of 2011 in the U.K. and Europe, according to new figures from Gartner released Wednesday. All major manufacturers saw declines that led to a considerable drop for the sector as a whole. Apple (s aapl) and Samsung were the only two companies to show positive growth.

PC shipments in the U.K. for the second quarter of this year were only 2.5 million units, a decline of 15 percent compared to the year before, and Western Europe saw an even more precipitous decline of 18.9 percent year over year, with a total of 12.7 million shipments. Mobile PCs were the hardest hit with a 20.4 decline overall, and mini-notebook shipments (which includes netbooks) dropped a whopping 53 percent in Western Europe. France and Germany also saw big downward trends in PC sales, with 17.8 and 13.3 percent declines overall, and 49 and 43 perent drops in mini-notebook sales.

Click to see data from other European markets at Gartner.

Samsung saw the best growth in the U.K. market by increasing shipments 5.2 percent. Apple was the only other top vendor to see positive growth there, with a one-percent increase in shipments in the U.K., and a 6.4 percent gain in France.

Gartner notes that this data does not include mobile devices like tablets or smartphones, and that’s likely a considerable factor in the overall declines. It’s a pattern we’ve seen developing over the last few months all over the world, with the PC and tablet sectors’ growth trajectories moving in opposite directions.  It’s particularly telling that mini-notebook sales are suffering the biggest losses, since Apple’s iPad and other tablets are seen to be filling that gap for a lot of consumers, and in some cases replacing traditional PCs. The iPad is leading the way in this shift: While Apple still lags behind competitors in overal unit sales in the PC space, once you include the iPad it takes the lead.

Meike Escherich, an analyst with Gartner, doesn’t think this is a trend that we’ll see reversed anytime soon, either. “This quarter’s results highlights the ongoing weakness of consumer demand, and could indicate a structural change in the market that threatens to continue in the near future,” she said.

That should be a wake up call for PC manufacturers trying to get in on the growing tablet market: If they can’t ship mature devices with strong software at prices that consumers find attractive, Apple will soon occupy an even more dominant market position in consumer computing.