Lest there be any doubt about how we feel about the so-called post PC era, Maximum PC Deputy Editor, Gordon Mah Ung, set the record straight several months ago. At the time, he (rightly) pointed out that traditional PCs (read: not iPads) still sell, a point that many pundits choose to ignore. Plain and simple, the numbers don't lie, and according to International Data Corporation (IDC), the PC market has once again returned to positive growth.
IDC says worldwide PC shipments rose 2.3 percent during the first quarter of 2012 compared to the same quarter one year earlier, besting the research firm's February projection of a 0.9 percent year-on-year increase. A variety of factors led to IDC's comparatively low projection, including the lingering hard drive shortage, a weak economy, competition from the burgeoning tablet market and other competing devices, and the big fat question mark that hangs over Windows 8 and its Metro UI.
"PC market growth remained limited in the first quarter as HDD supply and other factors limited demand," said Loren Loverde , IDC vice president of Worldwide Consumer Device Trackers. "Nevertheless, history has shown that periods of slower growth are followed by recovery as improving technologies make replacements as well as new purchases increasingly compelling. As a result, we expect PC shipments to pick up significantly by the fourth quarter and beyond as HDD supply and pricing are normalized, Windows 8 is launched, and replacements pick up.
"Slow growth in the U.S. shows that despite interesting and new form factors like all-in-one (AIO) desktop PCs and Ultrabook– class notebook PCs, the market remains conservative and focused on replacements. Commercial buyers are still cautious, while consumers are evaluating multiple products and may be waiting for the release of Microsoft Windows 8 later this year. The U.S. PC market is likely to remain constrained at least until the launch of Windows 8, which is expected in the fourth quarter of 2012. We expect vendors, retailers, and channel partners to be working very hard this year to focus their product lines and their general operations as they prepare for the year-end holiday season, because that alone will likely determine if there is any growth at all in the U.S. market in 2012."
If Windows 8 is received well, PC shipments could pick up in a big way by the end of the year. Tying into the potential explosion of PC sales is the fact that Intel continues to push the Ultrabook form factor with 75 new devices on tap for a 2012 release, some of which will sport hybrid designs that can double as a touchscreen tablet.
As far as market share goes, Hewlett-Packard continues to lead the pack, accounting for 18 percent of all PCs shipped around the world. Lenovo is in second place with a 13.4 percent share after posting a remarkable 43.7 percent year-on-year growth rate.
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