The first quarter PC unit and revenue estimates and the global market is estimated to fell 3 - 4.6 percent, according to IDC and Gartner, with the commercial segmend to provide a bright spot in a slowing market.
Although the shortage of Intel processors, mostly at the lower end, remained a factor in seeing a contraction in 1Q19, the market performed better than expected with most regions exceeding IDC's forecast. Stronger than expected desktop shipments further boosted volume, coming on the heels of a tough previous quarter, (4Q18), which had lackluster consumer demand and desktop supply issues. Furthermore, more PC brands turned to AMD chips. All of this, combined with firms rounding the last corner on its Windows 10 migration deployments, led to a shift in the market for traditional PCs towards more commercial and premium products.
“We saw the start of a rebound in PC shipments in mid-2018, but anticipation of a disruption by CPU shortages impacted all PC markets as vendors allocated to the higher-margin business and Chromebook segment,” said Mikako Kitagawa, senior principal analyst at Gartner. “While the consumer market remained weak, the mix of product availability may have also hindered demand. In contrast, Chromebook shipments increased by double digits compared with the first quarter of 2018, despite the shortage of entry-level CPUs. Including Chromebook shipments, the total worldwide PC market decline would have been 3.5 percent in the first quarter of 2019.”
“The top three vendors worldwide were still able to increase shipments despite the supply constraint by focusing on their high-end products and taking share from small vendors that struggled to secure CPUs. Moreover, the constraints resulted in the top vendors shifting their product mix to the high-end segment in order to deal with the constraint — which, along with favorable component price trends, should boost profit margins,” said Ms. Kitagawa.
According to Gartner's data, the top three vendors — Lenovo, HP Inc. and Dell — accounted for 61.5 percent of global PC shipments in the first quarter of 2019, compared with 56.9 percent of shipments in the first quarter of 2018. These top three vendors continued to gain share in the PC market as scale becomes a bigger factor in industry dynamics. Intel’s CPU supply constraint accelerated this trend.
Apple holds steady, but hardware issues may be holding the company back. The IDC data says that Apple's market share was 6.9 percent in the first quarter, up from 6.8 percent. Based on units, however, Apple's growth was down 0.5 percent. Given IDC's estimates that PC shipments were down 3 percent in the first quarter from a year ago, you could argue Apple outperformed the market--even though Dell and Lenovo showed positive unit growth.
"Apple saw a slight decline during the quarter with 4.1 million units shipped. Though the company refreshed some of its notebooks recently, the latest models have not been met with the greatest fanfare as reviews point to hardware issues that may affect sales in the coming months," IDC said.
Acer, a big Chromebook maker, was "challenged" by an Intel CPU shortage, but "was able to sidestep the issue in a few cases by incorporating older CPUs from Intel into its Chromebooks." Gartner said that the global PC market would have declined 3.5 percent in the first quarter including Chromebook shipments instead of the 4.6 percent it actually fell.
Business PC demand remained strong throughout the first quarter of 2019 across most key regions. The PC refresh driven by Windows 10 has been a driving force of business PC growth over the past three years, but Gartner forecasts that 2019 will be the last year in which shipments will be impacted by this refresh. “While PC shipment results in the first quarter of 2019 indicated that the business PC segment still showed strong demand, weak mobile PC results could be the indicator that the Windows 10 refresh has nearly peaked,” said Ms. Kitagawa.