Hurt by demand for the iPad and other electronic gadgets, PC shipments around the world dropped by 1.1 percent in the first quarter, according to preliminary results out today from Gartner.
Global PC shipments fell to 84.25 million during the quarter, compared with 85.18 million a year ago, their first decline in six consecutive quarters. The drop surprised Gartner, which had been looking for a gain of 3 percent. Though PC sales typically slow during the first quarter, the numbers point to this as more than just an expected seasonal dip, in Gartner's opinion.
"Weak demand for consumer PCs was the biggest inhibitor of growth," Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa said in a statement. "Low prices for consumer PCs, which had long stimulated growth, no longer attracted buyers. Instead, consumers turned their attention to media tablets and other consumer electronics. With the launch of the iPad 2 in February, more consumers either switched to buying an alternative device, or simply held back from buying PCs. We're investigating whether this trend is likely to have a long-term effect on the PC market."
The one bright spot was the demand for PCs in the business world, as companies needed to refresh their existing PCs. Without that contribution, Gartner said, the PC market could have seen one of its worst drops in recent times. Sales of replacement PCs to enterprise customers should continue to the end of the year and on into 2012, according to Gartner.
In terms of specific PC vendors globally, HP kept its top spot with a 17.6 percent slice of the market, shipping a total of 14.8 million computers during the first quarter. But the company's market share and shipments dropped from a year ago owing to the sluggish consumer demand for PCs and issues in the Asia-Pacific region.
Though still in second place, Acer suffered the biggest decline of the top five PC vendors with a 12.2 percent drop in shipments. The company is facing a tough climate as demand for its once-popular Netbooks has been stifled by the wave of consumers rushing to tablets. Acer also has been contending with a management shake-up. Former CEO Gianfranco Lanci resigned two weeks ago after a disagreement with the board over the future of the company.
Dell was another PC vendor hit by the drop in the global PC market, with its shipments down 2.2 percent from a year ago. Despite solid growth in Asia-Pacific, Dell saw its PC business underperform across the rest of the world.
Fourth-place Lenovo was one company spared by the overall decline. Its shipments actually shot up by 16.6 percent, by far the strongest among the top five vendors. Lenovo saw healthy growth around the globe in both the consumer and business markets by pricing its PCs competitively, Gartner said. Beyond Lenovo, Toshiba was the only other PC vendor in the top five to see its shipments grow during the quarter.
Gartner's findings echo an IDC report out yesterday that also pointed to a drop in PC shipments during the first quarter as a result of the demand for tablets. And a recent survey by Google's AdMob network suggested that tablets might be coaxing people away from their PCs (and TVs).