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European PC sales surge

Personal computer sales in Western European shoot up 20 percent in the first quarter of 1999, driven by strong sales to home users, according to a new study.

Personal computer sales in Western European grew 20 percent in the first quarter of 1999, driven by strong sales to home users, according to a new study.

PC sales in Europe grew at an "exceptional" rate, according to a research from Dataquest, led by Germany, where shipments grew 34.6 percent to 1.6 million, compared to the same period last year. PC maker Fujitsu experienced the strongest year-over-year market share increase of any PC maker, growing 46.9 percent.

European PC market share Europe's strong growth is another sign of a thaw in the global economic chill, following reports of increases in PC sales in Asia. Asia's sales growth has been driven by lower PC prices and economic recovery in key markets like Japan, according to a recent study by market research firm International Data Corporation. Worldwide PC shipments grew 14.1 percent in the first quarter of this year, IDC estimated.

Still, the robust upswing in sales is an inevitable result of the worldwide slowdown last year. In other words, even normal sales would be a major improvement over the depressed figures of last year.

"Ever lower prices, the allure of the Internet, and new cost-saving channels, as well as innovative marketing promotions, are all driving consumer growth," said Philip Williams, senior industry analyst for Dataquest, in a statement. For example, Fujitsu's foray into grocery stores resulted in sales of 200,000 PCs in a few days, Dataquest found.

Joining Fujitsu with double digit growth over last year was Dell, whose market share grew by 43 percent compared to last year, and Siemens, whose market share increased by 33 percent. Market leader Compaq and IBM also posted significant gains.

Regionally, Germany led Europe in terms of units shipped, followed by the United Kingdom, which grew its PC sales 24 percent to 1.4 million units. France had shipments of 895,000 units, a 32 percent increase.

Sales in these countries were primarily driven by consumer growth, Dataquest found, especially in Germany, where home PC shipments grew by 109 percent. Overall, home PC sales grew 57 percent over last year, compared to corporate sales, which grew 9 percent.

"Contrary to perceived wisdom that home users will play to the same basic rules that professional buyers have stuck to, of finding a price level they are comfortable with and by and large just accepting increasing levels of technology, home buyers just want more, but at a substantially lower price," Williams said in a statement.