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PC sales see a little light, but...

The dark cloud covering retail PC sales may be thinning a bit. Still, as one analyst says, "The idea you're down 10 percent as opposed to 20 or 30 isn't exactly a positive."

The dark cloud covering retail PC sales may be thinning a bit, analysts say.

After disappointing sales in August, September and October, early results from Thanksgiving week seemed to indicate that the trend may be reversing slightly.

During the Thanksgiving week, desktop PC sales were down 10 percent from 2000 levels, while notebook sales were up nearly 5 percent, said Steve Baker, analyst with NPD Intelect. Thanksgiving week is traditionally one of the busiest weeks of the holiday season, with the week before Christmas coming in as the busiest.

"After those (earlier) results, (sales) look pretty good comparatively speaking," Baker said. But "the idea you're down 10 percent, as opposed to 20 or 30, isn't exactly a positive."

Still, a negative 10 percent showing isn't as bad as, say, October's sales, which showed retail desktop PC sales down 27 percent from October 2000, with notebooks down 9 percent. Meanwhile, total retail PC sales were down 30 percent each month in August and September.

NPD's numbers match feedback from retailers and PC makers, which said sales met with lowered expectations after the Thanksgiving weekend, ended Nov. 25.

The better sales, especially on the notebook side, are a positive for PC makers, which have suffered through what has been the worst year yet for sales. Both Nintendo and Microsoft have also touted what they call strong sales of game consoles.

"We're probably talking single-digit negatives" for overall forth-quarter sales, Baker said. Rising sales will likely contribute to a situation where "things get better, but they don't get better enough," he said.

If there's any hope to end the year on a more positive note, it rests with people's pocketbooks and day planners.

"It seems like a more back-end-loaded season, with four full weeks of sales, plus an extra weekend" before the Christmas holiday, which falls on a Tuesday this year, Baker said--meaning it's likely that many will wait until the very last minute to buy, hoping for a better deal.