2009 PC shipments inch into positive territory

The fourth quarter of 2009 saw the first time in more than a year that shipments of laptops and desktop grew.

The PC industry ended 2009 on a positive note.

Worldwide shipments for 2009 were up 2.3 percent compared to 2008, according to the IDC Quarterly PC Tracker Report released Wednesday. Several months ago, ending the year with any shipment growth at all was looking unlikely. But after showing signs of life in the third quarter , followed by a healthy fourth quarter, it appears that the PC business is making a comeback.

PC market share
Sales of mini notebooks in the U.S. helped push worldwide sales up for 2009. Dell

A combination of holiday shopping, pent-up demand, and good reviews of Windows 7 have led to 15.2-percent growth for worldwide shipments during the fourth quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago.

The U.S. market saw even better growth: shipments were up 24 percent during the fourth quarter, to 20.7 million units. And much of the credit for overall worldwide growth can be attributed to buyers in the U.S., according to IDC analyst David Daoud.

"In a sense, the U.S. consumer has come again to save the quarter," he said Wednesday. "And by doing so, they've also lifted the worldwide market, (which) was anticipated to grow 11.3 percent, but grew 15.2 percent."

But there's a flip side to many U.S. shoppers picking up laptops near the end of the year during what are still tough economic times: they're buying cheaper PCs. Prices have declined so much due to the Netbook and mini-notebook phenomenon, that though many are being purchased, the margins on them are very thin. Though retailers and manufacturers are selling more, they're selling them for less.

The other problem: PC manufacturers are still waiting for corporate IT departments to start buying computers again. When that will be though is still up in the air.

"Businesses and governments have continued to shy away form refreshing hardware," Daoud said. "They need to see a consistent growth in the economy for them to feel confident to move into a new refresh cycle...Most of the decision makers at companies look for three to four quarters of sustained growth. That puts us in the second half of 2010 before we see progress."

In the meantime, the year-end report card for the top five manufacturers in the world was almost all positive. With the exception of Dell, none saw negative shipment growth, which helped round out 2009. In order, Hewlett-Packard saw shipments increase 10.4 percent, Dell was down 9.4 percent, Acer up 22.3 percent, Lenovo up 13.8 percent, and Toshiba up 15.7 percent.

In the U.S. only, there was a similar story regarding manufacturers' marketshare: everyone gained except Dell. HP inched up to 26.9 percent of PCs shipped for the year, Dell dropped slightly to 24.5 percent, Acer grabbed 11.3 percent, Apple saw a slight increase to 8 percent, and Toshiba moved to 7.7 percent share.

About the author

Erica Ogg is a CNET News reporter who covers Apple, HP, Dell, and other PC makers, as well as the consumer electronics industry. She's also one of the hosts of CNET News' Daily Podcast. In her non-work life, she's a history geek, a loyal Dodgers fan, and a mac-and-cheese connoisseur.

 

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