Apple iPad, other tablets, blunt Q4 PC sales

Gartner says sales to enterprises start to rebound while consumer PC business slows

Tablets like Apple's iPad are taking a toll on an already battered PC market.

Largely echoing an IDC report released Wednesday, Gartner researchers said fourth quarter PC sales were weaker than expected. The research firm lays the blame at the feet of a burgeoning tablet business.

"Overall, holiday PC sales were weak in many key regions due to the intensifying competition in consumer spending," said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner, in a statement. "Media tablets, such as the iPad, as well as other consumer electronic devices, such as game consoles, all competed against PCs."

The report did find good PC news in the enterprise sector.

Gartner said that there was steady growth in the enterprise market because corporate executives finally loosened the purse strings for PC upgrades after putting off big purchases in the midst of a bad recession.

Sales of replacement machines pushed the PC market into a recovery, noted Kitagawa. "However, the PC market will face challenges going forward with more intensified competition among consumer spending," he added.

Gartner reported that global PC shipments totaled 93.5 million units in the fourth quarter of 2010, up 3.1 per cent from the fourth quarter of 2009. Gartner had earlier forcast 4.8 per cent growth for the period.

In it's report, IDC reported PC shipments of 92.1 million units worldwide during the fourth quarter, an increase of 2.7 per cent from the year-earlier period. IDC had earlier projected fourth quarter growth of 5.5 per cent.

IDC and Gartner both reported that HP maintained its leadership in the worldwide PC business in the fourth quarter, even as its shipments fell from 17,786,986 in the 2009 period to 17,581,525 in the last quarter.

Like the rest of PC market, HP had solid enterprise sales while U.S. consumer sales were weak, Gartner noted.

Second-place Acer also was plagued by a PC slowdown in the consumer space.

Dell, with a bigger presence in corporate offices and less in the consumer market, benefitted by the enterprise refresh in the fourth quarter with a sales increase of 3.9 per cent. Dell finished in third place, Gartner said.

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