Tablets continue to take their toll on Q4 PC sales

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Hardware giant HP has reclaimed its position at the top of the PC market from Chinese rival Lenovo, according to the latest PC market figures from analyst house Gartner.

The firm's PC market figures revealed that 90.3 million units were shipped during the fourth quarter, which is 4.9 per cent down on the previous year.

The downturn in shipments was attributed to the continued demand for tablets over traditional desktop PCs.

Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner, said the falling price of tablet devices has also helped accelerate the decline in PC sales.

"Tablets have dramatically changed the device landscape for PCs, not so much by cannibalising PC sales, but by causing PC users to shift consumption to tablets rather than replacing older PCs," she said. The launch of Windows 8 had no impact on PC demand."There will be some individuals who retain both [types of device], but we believe they will be [the] exception and not the norm.

"Therefore, we hypothesise that buyers will not replace secondary PCs in the household, instead allowing them to age out and shift consumption to a tablet."

Echoing the thoughts of fellow market watcher IDC, Gartner said the launch of Windows 8 in October did little to bolster sales of PCs during Q4.

Gartner said analysts had blamed the latter point on the "somewhat lacklustre form factors" offered by Windows 8-touting PC vendors.

Meanwhile, Windows 8 was credited elsewhere in the research for helping hardware giant HP take over from Lenovo as PC market leader.

"The company's shipments did not grow compared to a year ago," said Gartner in a statement. "[But] HP was successful in managing large retail deals targeting Microsoft's Windows 8 launch and holiday sales in selected regions."

The Chinese computer marker's time at the top was relatively short-lived, having only replaced HP as market leader back in October, but the firm managed to outperform the rest of its rivals in the top five with a growth rate of 8.2 per cent, said Gartner.

"Lenovo's growth exceeded regional growth rates in North America, EMEA and Asia/Pacific, but [was] lower than the industry average in Latin America and Japan," it said.

From a geographical perspective, Western Europe was singled out as the weak point for PC shipments within EMEA, as other parts of the region notched up quarter-on-quarter growth.

In total, 28.1 million PCs shipped within EMEA during Q4, while 17.5 million units were shifted in the US, which is 2.1 per cent lower than in Q4 2011.

Furthermore, shipments in Asia/Pacific topped 29.9 million units, 8 per cent down on Q4 2011, as vendors struggled to incentivise users to upgrade, revealed Gartner.

"The PC market continues to face many headwinds. The launch of Windows 8 had no impact on PC demand, especially as ultra mobile products were both limited in supply, as well as being priced too high," said Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner.

"The holiday season mostly saw retailers clearing Windows 7 notebook inventory or driving volume of low-end notebooks...[and] the increasing choice of tablets at decreasing price points no doubt became a favourite Christmas present ahead of PCs."

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.