Holiday-season sales of PCs fell for the first time in
more than five years, according to tech industry tracker
IDC, as Microsoft's new Windows 8 operating system failed
to excite buyers.
Worldwide PC shipments totaled 89.8 million units in the
fourth quarter of 2012 (4Q12), down 6.4% compared to the
same quarter in 2011 and worse than the forecasted decline
of 4.4%, according to IDC.
Although the quarter marked the beginning of a new stage
in the PC industry with the launch of Windows 8, its
impact did not quickly change recently sluggish PC demand,
and the PC market continued to take a back seat to
competing devices and sustained economic woes. As a
result, the fourth quarter of 2012 marked the first time
in more than five years that the PC market has seen a
year-on-year decline during the holiday season.
The lackluster fourth quarter results were not entirely
surprising. IDC had expected the second half of 2012 to be
difficult. Consumers as well as PC vendors and
distribution channels continued to be diverted from PC
sales by ongoing demand for tablets and smartphones. In
addition, questions about the use of touch on Windows PCs
vs. tablets slowed commercial spending on PCs.
"Although the third quarter was focused on the clearing of
Windows 7 inventory, preliminary research indicates the
clearance did not significantly boost the uptake of
Windows 8 systems in Q4," said Jay Chou, senior research
analyst with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker. "Lost
in the shuffle to promote a touch-centric PC, vendors have
not forcefully stressed other features that promote a more
secure, reliable and efficient user experience. As Windows
8 matures, and other corresponding variables such as
Ultrabook pricing continue to drop, hopefully the PC
market can see a reset in both messaging and demand in
"As anticipated, the U.S. market had a rough ending,
dropping 4.5% in the fourth quarter and contributing to a
decline of 7% for the full year 2012," said David Daoud,
research director, IDC U.S. Quarterly PC Tracker.
"Consumers expected all sorts of cool PCs with tablet and
touch capabilities. Instead, they mostly saw traditional
PCs that feature a new OS (Windows 8) optimized for touch
and tablet with applications and hardware that are not yet
able to fully utilize these capabilities. Despite a
generally weak performance, some leading brands managed do
to well relative to the market. HP, Lenovo, Asus, and
Samsung were among the top performers, taking advantage of
some consumer interest in Windows 8, and a push to build
up their presence ahead of 2013."
According to IDC's data, the U.S. market struggled in the
fourth quarter of 2012, although to a lesser extent than
expected given the channel replenishment activity that
occurred in December. Some consumer activity took place in
conjunction with the release of Windows 8. However,
limitations in product offerings, in particular for touch
screen Tablet PCs, led consumers to once again delay
purchases. Consumer-focused vendors like HP and Asian
majors like Lenovo, Asus, and Samsung managed strong
performances, partly in response to modest consumer
demand, and partly due to channel activity in December
ahead of the anticipated 1H13 Windows 8 push. The rest of
the industry continued to take a wait-and-see approach as
consumer attitudes toward Windows 8 are clarified.
The EMEA PC market performed in line with expectations in
4Q12, with shipments declining at a mid single-digit rate
from a year ago.
Japan registered growth that was slightly positive, but
still several points below forecast.
The Asia/Pacific region came in slightly below previous
forecasts, as channels in most countries focused on
clearing out existing Windows 7 inventory before bringing
in fresh Windows 8 stock. China was not too far off
target, though ongoing sluggishness in the economy as well
as a slowdown in public sector projects kept the PC market
there suppressed this quarter.
HP continued to defend its top position in IDC's worldwide
ranking, recovering somewhat from past weakness in key
markets. An aggressive push for Windows 8 volume helped
the vendor make gains in Asia/Pacific and its home turf in
the U.S. HP struggled in EMEA but posted the first
year-over-year growth in Asia/Pacific in four quarters.
Total volume was nearly flat from a year ago, but better
than the overall market.
Lenovo outpaced the market with growth of over 8%. Volume
reached a new record-high of more than 14 million units,
with continued success in channel wins in the U.S. and
EMEA. Despite the positive performance, Lenovo's gains
remained significantly smaller than several quarters ago
when the company was besting market growth by nearly 30%.
Dell continued to lose ground as it faces aggressive
competition from other leaders and looks for better
margins. Worldwide shipments were down over 20% year over
year - faster than declines over the past several years -
with U.S. volume declining almost as much. The firm did
manage sequential growth in most other markets.
Acer Group, like a few other vendors, remains heavily
dependent on consumer spending. As a result, it has
continued to suffer as consumers focus on other products.
At the same time, Acer's cautious approach to the Windows
8 transition has contributed to slower notebook shipments.
ASUS held onto its top 5 spot globally and stretched the
distance between itself and other consumer-focused vendors
with growth of 5.6% year on year. The firm racked-up
strong gains across many regions, where its often
innovative yet price-conscious offerings still managed to
take root in spite of an increasingly tough landscape.
The numbers are bad news for Microsoft, which still
provides the operating system for nine out of 10 PCs but
is suffering as Apple's iPad and other tablets eat away at
the cheap end of the PC market.
Windows 8 and Microsoft's own Surface tablet have not
gripped consumers' imaginations.
Microsoft pulled out of the Consumer Electronics Show in
Las Vegas this year but PC makers such as Asustek, LG
Electronics and Samsung Electronics filled the gap with a
dizzying array of big screen computers, lightweight
laptops, tablets and combinations of those, all running
Microsoft says it feels good about the progress of Windows
8, as sales hit 60 million this week after 10 weeks on the
market. That is in line with Windows 7 three years ago,
and well ahead of Vista, which took 100 days to reach 40