updated 06:30 pm EDT, Wed April 15, 2009
Gartner PC shipment report
Gartner Research on Wednesday released a report detailing PC shipments for the first quarter in the U.S. and abroad. HP took the lead in the domestic market, pushing Dell out of the top spot, while Mac sales showed a slight decline of 1.1 percent compared with the first quarter of 2008. The analysts believe Apple's lackluster performance can be attributed to higher ASPs compared with competitors, although its "deft control" of inventories protected against further shipment decline.
Low-priced computers appear to be driving sales for several companies, contributing to an 11 percent growth for HP shipments. Globally, Acer and Dell now virtually share the second rank. Despite the economic conditions, Acer's shipments in the U.S. jumped 49 percent, primarily due to strong sales for its netbook devices.
"Low priced mobile PCs continued to be the growth driver for the PC industry in most regions," said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner. "However, we anticipate a sharp decline in industry revenues due to the lower average selling prices (ASPs) of these devices."
Although global PC shipments fell by 6.5 percent, sliding ASPs could be an even greater problem for the industry. TBR analyst Ezra Gottheil describes the situation as a "permanent and structural" collapse of selling prices and subsequent decline in revenue. "ASPs have been declining over the long term," Gottheil noted, "but the fall-off became steeper in 2008 and the bottom dropped out in 4Q08."
Apple has been able to maintain fairly level ASPs compared to its competitors. While Mac prices have remained mostly flat for the better part of a decade, ASPs for other major players have steadily eroded.
Through the fourth quarter of 2008, global PC shipments showed a growth of just 1.1 percent. Even the slight gain marked the worst overall performance since 2002, although Acer still managed to double its market share in the US. Apple showed a modest increase of 8.3 percent, while domestic HP and Dell shipments slid by 3.4 percent and 16.5 percent, respectively.
Gartner recently warned that PC shipments could plunge by 12 percent through the end of 2009. If the forecast proves accurate, the contraction would be the worst ever for the industry. The analysts expect the poorest performance from "mature" markets such as North America and Europe, where a large majority of buyers are replacing a device rather than purchasing a first-time system.
"U.S. mobile PC ASP likely will decline as much as 20 percent year-over-year in first quarter 2009," said Kitagawa. "Overall, end user spending on PCs is likely to have contracted in the upper teens in first quarter 2009 compared to a year ago."
George Shiffler, research director at Gartner, observes evidence of channel inventory restocking, but this does not necessarily indicate a recovery in end-user demand. "It's still unclear if the global PC market has hit the bottom," he said.