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Macs sales growing, but U.S. PC market stagnates

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Updated. IDC released its quarterly market share report for the last three months of 2011 on Wednesday. And with the exception of Apple(s aapl), PC sales in the U.S. tanked during a really rough holiday quarter.

Apple sold a little over 2 million Macs between October and the end of December, according to IDC. That’s 18 percent more than the roughly 1,700 1.7 million Macs the company sold during the same quarter a year ago. It’s really good news for Apple, as that growth has put its market share at 10.92 percent of the U.S. PC market, its highest share in a very long time.

The rest of the field did not fare much better in the U.S. None of the rest of the top five of the largest PC makers saw any growth at all. Hewlett-Packard(s HPQ), Dell(s DELL), Toshiba and Acer all saw declines in the number of PCs shipped last quarter. (As I wrote on Monday, this is exactly the reason companies like Vizio think they can squirm their way as newcomers into the PC market.)

Things were so bad, IDC has dubbed 2011 the “the second-worst year in history” for the U.S. PC market. The overall 5 percent contraction of the market since 2010 is second only to the 12 percent decline after the Y2K buildup and the dot-com bust of 2001. The reasons this time around are related to lower demand for new computers, but also the HDD shortage.

The global view

Though it’s worked its way to No. 3 in the U.S. market, when taking a broader view, Apple still doesn’t register in the top 5 of the largest PC makers in the world. And the overall market did a bit better. HP, which is the perennial leader, declined 15 percent in global PC shipments to barely keep ahead of Lenovo, the only real bright spot. HP of course was dealing with the after effects of announcing and then reconsidering a decision to stop selling PCs in mid-2011.

Lenovo surged 37 percent during the quarter to ship a little over 13 million PCs, good for the No. 2 spot, but a record in global marketshare for the company. Dell saw a little bit of growth (7 percent) in shipments, though not as much as Asus’s 26 percent. Acer lost ground, but stayed as the No. 4 largest vendor. All of this added up to an overall .17 percent decline in the PC market for the quarter, says IDC. But this wasn’t a huge surprise, and the signs that this would be a tough quarter were there:

As expected, shortages of hard disk drives (HDDs) added to challenges from slow economic conditions and competition from other consumer electronics, including media tablets, eReaders and mobile phones. The 4Q11 results reflected a year-on-year decline of 0.2% for the quarter and growth of 1.6% for the full year.

Update: Gartner also released its global marketshare stats Wednesday, reaching roughly the same conclusions as IDC. Gartner saw a 1.4 percent decline for the quarter in worldwide PC shipments, but .5 percent growth for the full year. Gartner also cited “continuously low” demand for PCs as a reason for the disappointing final quarter of 2011, as well as economic uncertainty in Western Europe and North America. Gartner’s Mikako Kitagawa warned that though the HDD shortage had a “limited impact” on the fourth quarter’s PC shipments, we can expect the effects to linger throughout 2012.

10 Responses to “Macs sales growing, but U.S. PC market stagnates”

  1. Once we agree on the correct definition for “media tablets” as the computers they really are, we will get a more realistic sense of the allocation of units within the evolution of the industry.

    It’s funny how nobody alludes to “media PC’s” to describe the countless PC’s purchased solely for consuming media…

  2. I believe one has to look at SW to understand the PCs future, it’s not only HW [form factor].

    Pictures already have found a way top bypass PCs required for organization and publishing.
    Music dito.
    Text seems to be next, even business text (email) where text becomes shorter and multiplies to carry the same information value. Which aids mobile processing …
    The biggest hold out for now in business is the good old spreadsheet, which I think will get a makeover with context voice processing and late(r)/remote data binding. Or how to process a matrix without seeing it, system has to “know” what’s in it and what should be in it. Siri on steroids in terms of context processing.
    After that maybe database manipulation[ERP].

    Michael Dell seems to think that people will use PCs since the web right now is build for bigger screens, I believe the web will adjust to small screens and look funny on big screens. Knowledge presentation is not about how much data one can cram onto a screen. It’s about the feedback loops between the data, which can be interacted with independent of screen size(see links). Otherwise we would all have ‘200″ screens’ which hold all the data presented in a web page by connections, which Dell surely would love.

    In other words we are not there yet, post PC. We are still struggling with text organization and spreadsheets but the writing is on the wall.