After record numbers in the fourth quarter of 2010, PC sales slowed considerably in the first quarter of 2011, according to analysts, who debated whether the primary culprit was the rise of the iPad and other tablets, or Microsoft's Windows 7.
Apple iPad and its competitors are hurting PC sales is, these days, a popular
topic for debate. Less debatable is that worldwide PC sales fell 0.3 percent
during the first quarter, from last year's 81.6 million during the same quarter
to 81.3 million most recently, according to research firm IHS iSuppli.
The dip was
made more pronounced by the fact that the quarter followed the "best
period ever" for global PC sales, with shipments hitting a quarterly
record of 93.1 million units. Three of the top five PC makers reported
year-over-year declines, with number-three PC maker Acer-which has relied
heavily on netbook sales-bearing the brunt of the downturn and suffering what
iSuppli calls the most "direct competitive threat from media
momentum of the media-tablet market, led by the iPad, is creating a difficult
environment for the PC industry," Matthew Wilkins, an IHS principal analyst,
said in a May 24 statement. "IHS believes that the jury is still out on exactly
how much tablets are cannibalizing PC sales. However, the rising number of
tablet models on the market, along with certain high-profile product launches
during the first quarter, caused confusion among consumers as to exactly how to
view the tablet platform relative to the PC platform. This contributed to the
PC sales decline in the first quarter."
analyst Sarah Rotman Epps-as well as analysts at the NPD Group-suggest it's not
tablets affecting PC sales so much as Microsoft's Windows release cycle.
consumers bought new PCs when Windows 7 came out, and without a new version of
Windows this year, there isn't the same catalyst to buy," Rotman Epps
explained in a May 17 blog post
. "Forrester's data shows that 34
percent of U.S. online consumers report having bought a PC in the past 12
months, and an additional 25 percent bought one 12 to 24 months ago. Tablet
owners are actually more likely than U.S. online consumers in general to have
recently bought a PC: 44 percent in the past 12 months and 28 percent in the 12
months before that."
NPD's vice president of industry analysis, has also argued that the threat to
the netbook-slinging Acers of the market isn't tablets.
conventional wisdom that says tablet sales are eating into low-priced notebooks
is most assuredly incorrect," Baker said in a May 10 report
. "The over-$500
segment of the [Microsoft] Windows consumer notebooks market is where PC sales
have been impacted the most, with a 25 percent decline from October 2010 to
of netbooks, he added, "is actually down by 50 percent among more recent
iPad buyers, when compared to early adopter buyers."
Both Baker and
Rotman Epps added that, with consumers growing accustomed to truly innovative
tablet designs, PC makers would need to push the envelope past what Baker
called "good-enough computing."
Rotman Epps, one way that market leader HP is looking to do just that is
through advances such as ePrinting, which, makes it easier to print from a
device, and with CoolSense technology, which automatically senses whether the
device is being used on a desk or the user's lap and accordingly adjusts its
quarter, HP retained its title as the top PC vendor, though it posted a 2.1
percent decrease year-over-year. Second-place Dell similarly was down by 1.8
percent, but neither came close to the hit suffered by Acer, with its 20.4
percent fall, from 11.6 million units during the first quarter of 2010 to 9.2
million units during the 2011 first quarter.
following in fourth place, enjoyed a 15.4 percent jump, and fifth-place Toshiba
also posted growth of 2.6 percent.
growth to return to the market later in the year, and for yearly sales to
finish at 373 million units, up from 2010's 345 million. While this would
represent a growth of 8 percent, it's still down from the 14 percent growth with
which the market concluded 2010.