PC Sales Tumble in 2011; Industry Anxious for Win8

Dennis Faas's picture

The number of computers sent to stores at the end of 2011 appears to have taken a surprising dip, leaving the industry anxious about the expected release of Windows 8 later in 2012.

Manufacturers' US shipments dropped 6.71 per cent during the last quarter of 2011, while the global figure fell just a little: about 1,600 fewer computers in a sea of more than 90 million units.

At this stage, it appears the total shipments for the year will rise, compared with 2010, but by the smallest margin since 2001. (Source: betanews.com)

Big Sales Increases Year-to-Year the Norm

It's worth noting that a loss or even a small rise will be considered disastrous, on a global basis.

Total worldwide sales have been rising significantly each year, through a combination of PCs becoming cheaper and more people in developing nations becoming wealthy enough to afford computers, or getting reliable Internet access for the first time.

Another reason for concern is that experts are having trouble pointing to a clear reason why fourth quarter sales -- which are typically strong because of Christmas shopping -- took a dip.

Among the likely influencing factors, however, has been the continuing economic troubles in major markets, particularly Europe.

Asian Disaster May Produce PC Shortages

Another possible reason for reduced shipments is the shortage of hard drives, caused by flooding in Thailand. Floods have caused the prices of hard drives to triple in the recent months.

Without sufficient hard drives, manufacturers have had to curtail production. Given the time lag between computers arriving at retailers and being sold, this slowdown in production may have a more serious effect in the coming months, potentially creating inventory shortages. (Source: zdnet.com)

A third possibility is that some users who might normally buy a computer in the coming months will instead wait for Windows 8, particularly as that may lead to an increased variety of portable computers on showroom shelves.

Powerful PC Vendor Reports 1/4 Loss in Shipments

For Microsoft, the most worrying aspect of the slumping shipments comes with the breakdown by vendor in the US.

While most major manufacturers shipped fewer units, Hewlett-Packard (HP) shipments dropped an astounding 25 per cent. In all, it's estimated that HP shipped 16 per cent fewer units last year world-wide. (Source: mercurynews.com) On the other end of the spectrum, Apple recorded an 18 per cent increase. (Source: zdnet.com)

One explanation for this from some experts is that most users continue to prefer Windows PCs over Macs for their main household computer, but those looking for a second machine increasingly selecting an iPad rather than a traditional laptop.

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