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Workstations feeling PC sales slowdown

Market researcher IDC had forecast a five-year growth rate of 18 percent, but now revises that to 10 percent.

    The crippling sales slowdown that socked PCs is moving on to more powerful desktop systems.

    Workstation sales slowed last year in the United States, and consequently worldwide, according to market researcher IDC. Still, worldwide workstation shipments rose 7 percent in 2000 compared with nearly flat growth for PCs.

    IDC had forecasted a 5-year growth rate of 18 percent, but has now revised that to 10 percent. In the fourth quarter, worldwide workstation shipments rose a scant 5 percent in units and 6 percent in revenue.

    "The market is slowing down," said IDC analyst Kara Yokley. Intel-based systems appear to be the most affected.

    "The Windows NT/2000 market is slowing down because the United States market is saturated or near saturated," she said. "Vendors have not been focusing on the international market as much."

    The United States made up about 49 percent of the worldwide workstation market in the fourth quarter, down from 50 percent in units and 52 percent in revenue a year earlier, according to IDC.

    With the economic slowdown progressing, Yokley predicted continued diminished growth. "The incredible growth we saw years ago is over for the NT side."

    Because of this change, workstation makers will be forced to shift sales internationally or focus on U.S. markets, such as small business, where less powerful PCs dominate, IDC concluded.

    Sales of workstations running Unix are doing better, but also show weakness.

    "On the Unix side we expect holding steady in terms of unit shipments, but down in terms of revenue," Yokley said. "This is mostly being driven by Sun (Microsystems), mostly at the low end."

    While Sun sells a broad range of workstations, Yokley said, "they've had great success with their Ultra 5, and those boxes are coming in sometimes less than $2,000."

    The Ultra 5, also known as Darwin, is Sun's Unix response to PC workstations running the Windows NT or 2000 operating systems.

    "The other vendors haven't compromised their prices the way Sun has," Yokley said. "They're the only ones that are really playing to compete with Windows NT/2000."

    Workstations differ from PCs in a number of areas, typically offering beefier graphics, support for two monitors and more robust storage offerings, such as SCSI or RAID. The systems are typically used for demanding tasks, such as computer-aided design (CAD), software development or video production, among others.

    The most important difference is two-processor capability. While not a mandatory facet of the category, the capability of using a second processor has been a distinguishing feature.

    Winners and losers
    Dell Computer in the fourth quarter led the worldwide workstation market in terms of units shipped with a 25 percent share, up 50 percent from a year earlier, according to preliminary IDC estimates. Sun followed with an 18 percent share, down 8 percent. Hewlett-Packard captured the third spot with 16 percent market share, also down 8 percent. IBM, with 11 percent growth, controlled 15 percent of the market. Compaq Computer rounded out the top five, with a 12.5 percent share, down 19 percent.

    In terms of worldwide workstation revenue, HP in the fourth quarter narrowly took the No. 1 position in what Yokley characterized as a close race. HP had a 20 percent share, followed by IBM at 19 percent and Sun at 18 percent.

    "But it was very tight, with only about $20 million separating each of the three," Yokley said.

    In terms of growth, HP was flat year over year, while IBM gained 3 percent and Sun fell 23 percent.

    Dell took the fourth position, with a 17 percent share and 36 percent growth. Compaq trailed with a 10 percent share, with revenue falling 23 percent.

    In the United States, Dell and Sun dominated the two major markets: Windows NT/2000 workstations and Unix. Dell took 49 percent of the PC workstation market in units and 46 percent in revenue. Sun captured a whopping 65 percent of Unix unit shipments and 42 percent of revenue.

    Dell and Sun offered the clearest product lines. Whereas competitors sold both Windows and Unix workstations, Dell offered just PC models and Sun, just Unix.

    IDC also released preliminary 2000 worldwide workstation shipments, putting Dell ahead overall with a 22 percent share. Dell also led in PC workstations with a 33 percent market share and overall growth of 54 percent.

    Sun captured the No. 2 position, both in overall shipments and Unix models--20 percent and 61 percent, respectively. But Sun unit shipments declined 3 percent from 1999. HP followed with an 18 percent market share, with shipments down 5 percent year over year.

    Compaq and IBM tied for fourth place with 13 percent of the market apiece. But while Compaq unit shipments increased 14 percent, IBM's declined 2 percent.

    Overall, manufacturers shipped 1.7 million workstations in 2000, up 7 percent from the previous year.