PC Sales Sluggish in U.S.

The U.S. PC market has, for the first time, taken a back seat to the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region surpassed the United States as the largest PC market, based on 2005 shipments, according to preliminary statistics by Gartner.

PC shipments in EMEA totaled 72.6 million units in 2005, while PC shipments in the U.S. reached 67.2 million units.

It’s all about “bragging rights” said Charles Smulders, vice president of Gartner’s Computing Platforms Worldwide Group since the U.S. market has historically been the biggest market.

“I think it reflects a couple of things: the penetration on the U.S. market is very high now which means that it becomes more dependant on replacement … (and) it just illustrates there are more new-use opportunities (in the EMEA) marketplace.”

It was a good year overall for the PC industry even though suppliers did struggle to make a profit, he said. Driving the growth of the market for the foreseeable future will be consumer demand as corporate refresh cycles continue to wind down in 2006, said.

Small business and consumers were the biggest consumers of PC technology in 2005, with laptops leading the way.

“Mobile growth came to some extent at the expense of desk-based PCs,” Shulmer’s said. “Emerging regions had steady desk-based PC growth, however it could not offset the very weak desk-based PC growth in the mature regions.”

For CIOs, this won’t mean better prices in 2006 since price pressures evened out in 2005. Shulmer said CIOs in the refresh cycle really should look at all the factors effecting the cost of running their desktops.

“Both small and midsize business (SMB) and enterprise markets showed softness in demand,” said Mika Kitagawa, principal analyst in Gartner’s Computing Platforms Worldwide Group. “This slow down was mainly driven by poor desk-based PC sales. Professional mobile PC growth was very steady, especially in the SMB market.”

In the Asia/Pacific region, China, South Korea and India continued to perform well in the fourth quarter. China had strong demand in the professional segment due to fiscal year-end spending, while in the consumer market, leading vendors had some success in their winter promotion programs. In India, PC sales are expanding beyond the major cities.

In Latin America, desk-based PC shipments grew 20% in the fourth quarter, while notebook shipments grew 51%. The consumer market grew by 25%, while consumer notebooks surpassed 112% growth.

PC shipments in Japan appear modest for the fourth quarter, however many of the new PCs targeted for the winter bonus shopping season had been shipped in September instead of the fourth quarter. As more vendors started shipping their mainstream models in September, this limited fourth quarter shipment growth to the high single digits, while the third quarter posted 18.4% growth.