HP, Dell, Acer Strengthened Global PC Market in 2009

The 2009 PC market closed with a remarkable 2.3 percent growth, largely thanks to end-of year discounts. Hewlett-Packard again dominated the market, while Acer and Dell fought for second place - which Acer grabbed worldwide for the quarter, but Dell claimed worldwide for the year.

Strong PC sales in the fourth quarter of 2009 helped make up for a slow start, and in the end, the 2009 worldwide PC market achieved 2.3 percent year-on-year growth, according to a Jan. 13 report from IDC.

Last year's outcome was helped by a solid holiday shopping season, which saw price cuts of an "unprecedented duration," according to IDC. In the United States, this trend lead to a new record of nearly 20.7 million units shipped during the fourth quarter of 2009, resulting in a year-on-year growth of 24 percent.

Worldwide, shipments were particularly bolstered by markets in Asia/Pacific and Latin America and concluded with 15.2 percent year-on-year growth for the quarter.

In addition to lowered PC prices, IDC pointed to improving economic indicators and "pent-up demand" as additional factors leading to the welcome growth.

"First is the rubber-band effect and recover from the year-ago quarter, which suffered from buyer contraction when the economic crisis was confirmed," wrote IDC analyst David Daoud, explaining the factors that led to the growth.

"The vendors responded with new low price points to stimulate demand and face competition. In this context, low-cost notebooks and mini-notebooks were the biggest contributors to the successful fourth quarter," Daoud continued. "Once again, the consumer market overcame the weak commercial sector to save the quarter."

U.S. manufactures have expressed hopes that the Oct. 21 launch of Microsoft's Windows 7 would encourage sales, particularly from enterprises needing to update older systems. IDC wrote, however, that Windows 7 did affect consumer purchases, albeit moderately. Enterprises, it explained, will proceed more slowly, waiting for "tangible signs of sustained economic growth before launching a new refresh cycle."

After three quarters of declines, Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) returned to positive growth, largely thanks to the sales of netbooks and other low-cost mobile PCs. In Japan, the market exceeded expectation, growing 4.3 percent during the quarter, and Asia/Pacific, excluding Japan, led global sales, with year-on-year growth of 31 percent, spearheaded, IDC wrote, by "bellwethers like China."

Worldwide, HP led PC shipments in the fourth quarter of 2009, shipping nearly 18 million units and grabbing 21 percent market share. The quarter was a particularly strong one for Acer, which pulled ahead of Dell to take the second position, shipping 11.4 million units, for 13.4 percent market share.

A third-place Dell shipped 10.6 million units worldwide in the fourth quarter worldwide, grabbing 12.4 percent market share, while a fourth-place Lenovo shipped 7.8 million units, for 9.2 percent of the market share. Toshiba followed with 4.8 million units and 5.6 percent market share worldwide.

In the United States, HP remained on top, with 29.2 percent market share, but Dell grabbed the number-two spot back from Acer, with its 11.9 percent market share. In third place, Acer garnered 11.9 percent market share, Toshiba jumped up to the fourth spot, with 8.3 percent market share - and a notable year-on-year growth of 71.5 percent - and Apple followed in fifth place, with 7.4 percent of U.S. market share in the fourth quarter.

Worldwide for the year, however, it was Dell that held the number two spot. While HP shipped 59.9 million units in 2009, Dell followed with 38.41 - for a market share of 13.1 percent, which allowed it to squeak by Acer, with its year-end total of 37.37 million units, for a market share of 13.0 percent.

Lenovo followed in fourth, with 24.9 million units for the year and 8.5 percent market share, and Toshiba came in behind it, with 15.9 million units and 5.4 percent market share.

"The market has weathered a storm which looks to be behind us," wrote Jay Chou, an IDC analyst. "But salvaging decreasing margins will soon become even more pertinent as one considers the long-term effects of holding market share at the cost of profitability."

In October, analysts similarly warned that while inexpensive netbooks were helping to boost sales numbers, their low average selling price were negatively impacting the PC market's revenue.

"Without an effective strategy to convey a clear usage model and feature set tied to each segment, the market will inevitably continue down the slippery slope of -good enough' computing sold to the lowest bidder," wrote Chou.