Global PC Shipments Fall 2.4% in Fourth Quarter, IDC Says

Worldwide personal-computer shipments dropped 2.4 percent in the fourth quarter as demand from businesses for new machines waned, market researcher IDC said.

The decline was less than the 4.8 percent fall that IDC had projected for the quarter, the firm said today in a statement. PC sales totaled 80.8 million for the quarter, down from 82.2 million units a year earlier. Some of the decline was offset by rising interest in Google Inc.’s Chromebooks, which are low-cost laptops running Google software, and promotions by Microsoft Corp. around its Windows 8 software and Bing search.

PC sales have been under pressure for several years as consumers increasingly do more computing on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. The stronger-than-projected fourth-quarter performance isn’t cause for celebration, said Jay Chou, a senior research analyst at IDC.

“People are buying PCs mainly because the one they had is three, five years old and it’s getting to be less and less productive to use and therefore they refresh it and not because of other stimulants,” Chou said in an interview.

Lenovo Group Ltd. retained its top market-share spot in the quarter with shipments of 16 million PCs worldwide, adding up to a 19.9 percent slice of the market, IDC said. Yet the biggest market-share gains came from two other competitors: Apple Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co.

Apple’s Rise

Apple’s computer shipments jumped 19 percent in the quarter to 5.8 million, giving the Cupertino, California-based maker of Macs a 7.1 percent slice of the market, IDC said.

Hewlett-Packard, which is in the process of splitting off its PC and printer businesses into a stand-alone company this year, saw its shipments increase 15 percent in the quarter to 15.9 million, giving it a market share of 19.7 percent and cementing its spot as the second-biggest maker of PCs.

In contrast, smaller PC suppliers saw their shipment growth contract 20.7 percent, IDC said, as pricing pressure from low-cost Chromebooks and discounts by Microsoft on Windows 8.1 software hit margins.

PC sales were particularly strong in the U.S., climbing 13.1 percent to 18.1 million units in the fourth quarter from a year ago, according to data compiled by researcher Gartner Inc. Hewlett-Packard accounted for 29.2 percent of all shipments in the U.S., Gartner said.

Shipments of laptops and other portable computers in the U.S. grew in the double digits, while traditional desktop PCs fell by more than 10 percent, IDC said.

“The one big takeaway is probably very strong growth in the U.S. market,” said Mikako Kitagawa, an analyst at Gartner.

The Europe, Middle East and Africa also saw a slight increase in PC shipments as consumers bought more of the machines during the holiday season. In Japan, volume fell by 35 percent to less than 3 million, marking the country’s lowest quarter by shipments since 2006, IDC said.

Total PC shipments for 2014 were 308.6 million units, down 2.1 percent from the previous year, IDC said.

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