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Research firms IDC and Gartner issued similar reports on Thursday showing a decline in global PC sales during the first quarter due primarily to macroeconomic reasons, including weak consumer demand -- although both noted areas of growth as well.
IDC said Q1 global PC shipments declined 3.2 percent year-over-year -- the first decrease in overall PC sales since the end of the global economic recession. According to IDC, the recent earthquake in Japan combined with rising fuel and commodity prices to slow down growth in the market.
Furthermore, IDC predicted that the PC market is headed for a frugal phase as short-term factors such as events in Japan and the Middle East cause a ripple effect throughout the global economy. However, according to Jay Chou, senior research analyst with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker, macroeconomic forces will eventually give way to vendors’ ability to offer a user experience worth the price of increasingly powerful personal systems.
"Long-term success will depend on hardware manufacturers being able to articulate a message that is beyond simple hardware specifications,” said Chou, in a statement. "'Good-enough computing' has become a firm reality, exemplified first by mini notebooks and now media tablets”
In its global PC sales report issued on Thursday, Gartner said that the global PC market would have experienced one of the worst declines in recent history had it not been for growth in the professional PC sector stemming from the PC refresh cycle, which it expects to continue through 2011 and perhaps into next year.
While Gartner estimated global Q1 PC shipments at 84.3 million units, a 1.1 percent decline year-over-year, the drop-off fell short of the analyst’s previous Q1 forecast of 3 percent growth. Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner, said weak consumer demand was the primary reason for reduced growth. Kitagawa also said competitive pricing on consumer PCs is no longer sufficient in order to sell those PCs.
In addition, Kitagawa said tablets and other consumer electronics have captured the attention of potential PC buyers and cut into PC sales, but did not say whether tablet cannibalization would continue to affect the overall market adversely. “With the launch of the iPad 2 in February, more consumers either switched to buying an alternative device, or simply held back from buying PCs,” Kitagawa said. “We're investigating whether this trend is likely to have a long-term effect on the PC market."
Regarding the risk of tablet cannibalization, IDC’s Bob O'Donnell, program vice president for Clients and Displays, said that the growth of tablets is not wholly responsible for the decline in the PC market and that the industry will continue to struggle in Q2, and will likely only improve in the second half of 2011.
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