Apple iPad, Tablet Promises Slowed Q3 PC Sales: Analysts

Worldwide PC shipments were below estimates in Q3, according to Gartner and IDC, which pointed to consumers holding off on purchases until the promised new tablet PCs arrive.

Worldwide PC shipments fell below expectations during the third quarter, according to market research firms Gartner and IDC. Each found commercial refresh projects to be on target, but consumer spending sluggish, a trend each partly attributed to the hype surrounding tablet PCs, such as the Apple iPad.

While iPad sales weren't figured into PC shipment estimates, anticipation of new tablets, scheduled to arrive in time for the holidays, likely led some consumers to hold off on purchases, Gartner and IDC said in separate Oct. 13 reports.

"Media tablets don't replace primary PCs, but they affect PC purchases in many ways," Mikako Kitagawa, a principal analyst at Gartner, said in a statement. "At this stage, hype around media tablets has led consumers and the channels to take a -wait and see' approach to buying a new device."

Gartner estimated that worldwide PC shipments grew 7.6 percent during the quarter - a figure well below its anticipated projection of 12.7 percent - on worldwide shipments of 88.3 million units. IDC, on estimated shipments of 89.6 million units, reported quarterly growth of 11 percent.

Worldwide, Hewlett-Packard led the market, despite a generally flat year, followed by Acer and then Dell - which grew nearly 10 percent year-on-year. In the United States, the firms agreed that HP again led, followed by Dell. But Gartner found Acer, which generally competes neck-and-neck with Dell, to occupy the third position, followed by Apple in fourth, while IDC reported that the number-three spot went to Apple.

"Apple's influence on the PC market continues to grow, particularly in the U.S., as the company's iPad has had some negative impact on the mini-notebook market," IDC's Bob O'Donnell said in a statement. "But the halo effect of the device also helped propel Mac sales and moved the company into the number three position in the U.S. market."

According to IDC, HP claimed 24.3 percent of U.S. market share on shipments of 4.6 million units (a year-on-year growth of just 2.7 percent), and Dell shipped 4.4 million units for 23.1 percent market share, despite a year-on-year shift of negative 4.9 percent. Apple reportedly shipped 1.999 million units for 10.6 percent market share - a growth of 24.1 percent year-on-year growth - while fourth-place Acer shipped 1.949 million units for 10.3 percent market share and a growth of just 0.1 percent.

Gartner estimated that 25.3 percent of the U.S. market went to HP, on shipments of 4.5 million units; 23.8 percent went to Dell, on 4.2 million units and Acer claimed 10.5 percent market share on shipments of 1.85 million units. Just behind Acer, it found Apple to be fourth place, shipping 1.83 million units for 10.4 percent of the market.

By both accounts, Lenovo, gaining more than 30 percent during the quarter, was the number-four player worldwide, Asus also on strong sales, thanks to the Asia/Pacific region, finished in fifth place worldwide, and Toshiba, also growing above the market average, finished in sixth place. In the United States, again putting in a strong performance, Toshiba finished in fifth, with approximately 9 percent market share.

Gartner's Kitagawa said back-to-school sales in the United States were weak not because students weren't buying PCs, but because the nonstudents usually attracted to back-to-school promotions held off, again because of tablet PCs.

"These buyers were influenced by media tablet introductions, as well as the still-gloomy economy," said Kitagawa, "since these buyers do not have an immediate need to purchase a PC."

Chip makers Intel and Advanced Micro Devices both lowered their third-quarter expectations due to weakening consumer PC demand. During their earnings call Oct. 12, Intel officials said consumer demand in both the United States and Western Europe were down, but that that corporate purchase and sales in emerging markets helped Intel hit record financial numbers for the quarter. Intel saw more than $11 billion in revenue during those three months. AMD is scheduled to release its third-quarter financial numbers Oct. 14.

Still, the quarter ended strong, IDC analyst Jay Chou said the statement, offering hope for the fourth quarter.

"Lower PC component costs, budding excitement around new media-centric form factors and continued business buying should still make for a competitive holiday season," said Chou.