Worldwide Q2 PC Sales Down But Beat Expectations

Data analysis firm IDC has released sales and shipment figures for the PC industry in Q2 2009. It's a glass half-full/half-empty sort of report; the PC industry shrank 3.1 percent in Q2 2009 compared to Q2 2008, but that 3.1 percent dip was just half of the 6.3 percent contraction IDC initially predicted. IDC attributes the difference to "a PC market which has seen the computing experience evolve to be more personal, portable, and cost-oriented rather than performance-driven. Portable PCs continue to be the primary driver of volume and growth with all regions seeing strong Portable shipments."

Barring any further economic shocks, IDC expects the overall PC industry to begin growing again by the end of the year. That same emphasis on portable systems, however, is also lowering the average value (and therefore the manufacturer's profits) of the systems being sold. The growth in the portable market is being driven by consumer purchases; commercial spending remains tight as companies continue to keep a weather eye on the economic horizon. This shift could hurt certain manufacturers more than the total 3.1 percent market contraction would indicate, depending on each OEM's product mix. In the past, companies like
Intel and HP have relied on their higher-margin server and workstation divisions to carry them through economic downturns, but it's unlikely that Atom will turn up in a 4U server anytime soon. (I won't speculate on 1U Atom, since somebody has probably already mounted a bunch of mini-ITX boards into a 1U and called it a day.)

Regionally, sales in the US fell three percent, with Dell narrowly regaining its first-place position in the market. Sales also fell in EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) and in Japan, where non-native OEMs lost ground to manufacturers explicitly focusing on portable systems. Outside of Japan, the Asian market grew more than anticipated; unit shipments in China were particularly strong. Broken down by vendor, the quarter saw HP grow its worldwide sales volume by 3.6 percent compared to Q2 2008 and performed above expectations within the US. Dell, as previously stated, did well in the US market but continues to struggle outside of it with worldwide sales falling by 17.1 percent. Acer, Lenovo, and Toshiba all posted modest gains, which IDC attributed to their strong focus in portable products.

As a side note, Q2 2009 was a less-than-stellar quarter for
Apple, whose sales fell 12.4 percent year-on-year. Apple's market share declined from 8.5 percent in 2008 to 7.6 percent in 2009. That gave Toshiba room to move from #5 to #4; the Japanese company grew its US marketshare by a whopping 33.9 percent year-on-year, and edged out Apple with 7.7 percent of the US market. I don't want to put too much emphasis on netbook sales, given that the product segment is so new, but Apple's lack of interest in a netbook-class device could be costing it sales, especially given the current economic climate. Current netbooks run the gamut from sub-$300 models to "deluxe" systems with 11.2" screens and 2GB of RAM. True, these systems aren't even in the same performance league with even a basic Macbook, but customers these days are watching dollar signs.