Netbooks keep PC sales out of decline

As usual, netbooks have helped prop up PC sales, according to the latest market report from Gartner.

Indeed, the analyst house said that cheap and cheerful laptops were the only reason PC sales managed to post 12 per cent growth in the last quarter of 2008, as corporate sales fell by five per cent.

According to Gartner, 20.1 million PCs were shipped across Western Europe in the last quarter of 2008, with 66 million shipped over the entire year up 17.2 per cent from 2007.

"While growth in PC sales in Western Europe was good, the underlying trend was down, with the professional market experiencing a five per cent decline in the fourth quarter of 2008," said Ranjit Atwal, a principal analyst at Gartner.

"If it wasn't for mini-notebooks, the overall Western European market would be showing a decline. This does not bode well for 2009 as we expect the general economic conditions to worsen."

That pattern was echoed in the UK, which saw shipments of 3.7 million PCs, up 12.2 per cent quarter-on-quarter, despite a big dive in professional desk-based computers. "In the UK, the consumer market grew strongly while the professional market dipped dramatically with professional desk-based shipments declining 15 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2008," added Atwal. "2009 is expected to see growth weaken in the UK and the mini-notebooks market is likely to be the only shining light in a difficult year for the PC industry."

The top three PC sellers across Western Europe for the fourth quarter remained HP (23.3 per cent), Acer (20.3 per cent) and Dell (10.1 per cent).

Toshiba saw growth in professional as well as consumer areas, earning a 6.4 per cent market share, while Dell's desktop computing fell by 25 per cent.

Unsurprisingly, Eee PC-maker Asus increased its market share to 7.4 per cent, up from 2.9 per cent in the same quarter last year.