PC shipments growing faster than expected

More first-time buyers snap up low-cost machines. Market leader Dell sees PC shipments grow 23.7 percent.

Michael Kanellos Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Michael Kanellos is editor at large at CNET News.com, where he covers hardware, research and development, start-ups and the tech industry overseas.
Michael Kanellos
3 min read
Notebooks and low-cost computers led to higher-than-expected PC shipments in the second quarter of 2005, and many of these machines appeared to go to first-time buyers.

Worldwide shipments of PCs rose 16.6 percent from the same period a year ago, according to IDC, far above the research firm's May forecast of 12.3 percent. In all, 46.6 million desktops, notebooks and servers containing Intel, Advanced Micro Devices or PowerPC chips left factories during the quarter.

Rival Gartner, meanwhile, reported similar trends, although the exact numbers differ. Gartner said PC shipments grew by 14.8 percent, better than expected, with more than 48 million PCs leaving factories. Gartner and IDC have different methodologies for counting "white box," or unbranded, PCs.

While many of the machines went to buyers who already own PCs, evidence is mounting that relentless price cuts are allowing manufacturers to reach new customers. Shipment growth in Asia and Latin America is growing rapidly, said Loren Loverde, an analyst at IDC, while shipment growth in established economies like the United States and Japan are lower and more predictable. PC makers in the past few years have attempted to target consumers in emerging markets.

"Maybe we're getting more new users than previously acknowledged," Loverde said.

The desire to shift from desktops to notebooks is also propelling a replacement cycle, said Charles Smulders of Gartner. That's good news for many manufacturers' bottom line; not only do notebooks typically sell for more than desktops, they typically also are replaced faster by consumers.

"In Asia-Pacific, we are also seeing new users being persuaded to buy notebooks," Smulders said.

The surge in growth was due to the usual suspects. Dell, No. 1 worldwide and in the United States, saw its shipments grow by 23.7 percent, according to IDC. The company's worldwide market share is now up to 19.3 percent, and its U.S. market share is up to 34.7 percent. Dell's shipments in Asia grew by 50 percent.

Acer, which has concentrated on the fast-growing markets of Europe and Asia, once again saw the most gains for a large company. The company saw shipments grow by 62 percent, while its worldwide market share expanded to 4.4 percent, according to IDC.

Gateway and Apple Computer, meanwhile, saw shipments grow by 26.6 percent and 37 percent respectively, according to IDC. Gateway's numbers come a year after its merger with eMachines, so the growth provides some evidence that the acquisition is bearing fruit. Gateway and Apple are ranked third and fourth in the United States but are not in the top five internationally.

By contrast, Hewlett-Packard, the second-largest PC maker in the world, has been offering several bargain PCs lately, but once again fell behind Dell.

IDC found that HP's shipments rose 16.3 percent worldwide, slightly lower than the global average, although Gartner found that HP grew shipments worldwide by 16.5 percent, better than its 14.8 percent estimate for worldwide growth. In the United States, HP grew slower than the market as a whole; its market share is nearly half that of Dell's. IDC said that HP's domestic market share dropped to 18.7 percent while Gartner put it at 17.4 percent. HP has lagged the market for the last several quarters.

Lenovo also lost ground compared with the combined totals of IBM and Lenovo from a year ago. "We saw some customer uncertainty" resulting in slightly depressed shipments, Gartner's Smulders said.

Once again, Europe helped drive the trend. A still comparatively strong euro and the expansion of the European Union led to PC shipment growth of more than 20 percent, after several quarters of growth in the high teens. Low-cost systems in China also sold well.

By contrast, U.S. PC shipments grew by 11.7 percent, just a tad higher than IDC's prediction in May of 11.6 percent growth.