Steve Jobs can say what he wants about tablets replacing PCs in the same manner that urban automobiles have replaced farm trucks in the past few decades (his comparison, not ours), the fact of the matter is the PC market is doing just fine, according to market research firm iSuppli. More than just fine, first quarter PC shipments skyrocketed by nearly 23 percent over the same period from last year, representing the highest annual surge iSuppli has ever recorded since it began keeping tabs on the market in 2003.
"Early 2009 represented one of the weakest periods in the history of the PC market, as consumer and corporate demand plunged due to the economic downturn," Matthew Wilkins, principal analyst for compute platforms at iSuppli, said in a statement. "With economic conditions improving, PC sales rebounded in early 2010."
PC makers shipped some 81.5 million units during the first quarter, driven in large part by high demand in Asian markets, iSuppli said. During the same period in 2009, shipments sank to just 66.5 million units.
While Hewlett Packard (HP) remains the market leader with a 19.6 percent share, Asus by far benefited the most from the increased demand, noting a whopping 136.2 percent year-over-year growth rate. The next closest was Lenovo, which noted a 58.5 percent growth rate, followed by Acer with 47.1 percent.
For the first time ever, hard disk drive (HDD) shipments from Western Digital have zipped past Seagate, according to a report by market research firm iSuppli.
Western Digital managed to ship 51.1 million HDDs for the first quarter of 2010, a 3.2 percent increase from the 49.5 million units it shipped in the fourth quarter of 2009. That was enough to finally edge out Seagate, which shipped 50.3 million, up 0.8 percent from 49.9 million over the prior quarter.
While Western Digital wins the quarterly shipment war, Seagate still has the edge in revenue. According to iSuppli, Seagate's revenue numbers sit at $3.1 billion, a good chunk higher than Western Digital's $2.64 billion.
Another sign that the tech recession is finally subsiding, worldwide semiconductor sales continue to grow and have never been higher than they were in April, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA).
SIA's numbers have global chip sales checking in at $23.6 billion in April 2010, a 2.2 percent increase from one month prior when sales hovered around $23.1 billion.
"Global sales of semiconductors grew at a healthy rate in April, surpassing the previous monthly record level of November 2007," said SIA president George Scalise. "As expected, both the year-on-year and sequential growth rates moderated slightly. The unusually high year-on-year comparison is a reflection of the trough of the recession in early 2009 compared to strong demand today."
According to Scalise, the worldwide adoption of 3G wireless communication played a big in the industry's growth, as did the consequent investment in infrastructure and recovery of demand from the enterprise, automotive, and industrial sectors.
In what research firm Gartner is calling a "robust recovery" in certain parts of the world, PC shipments around the globe ballooned to 84.3 million units in the first quarter of 2010. That's a 27.4 percent increase from the same quarter in 2009, and higher than the 22 percent growth Gartner had predicted.
"The stronger-than-expected growth was led by a robust recovery in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) PC market, which grew 24.8% in the first quarter of 2010," said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner. "All other regions recorded double-digit growth rates, although the US and Latin America were slightly lower than what we had expected.
"These first-quarter results indicate that the professional PC market is gradually picking up, driven by PC replacements in mature markets," Kitagawa said. "With a relatively positive macroeconomic outlook, business demand was more forthcoming. Major PC replacement demand driven by Windows 7 will become more apparent in the second half of 2010 and the beginning of 2011."
PC shipments in the US totaled 17.4 million units in the first quarter, representing a 20.2 percent growth rate from one year ago. That's the second consecutive quarter of double-digit shipment growth. Toshiba was a big benefactor in all this, which saw shipments jump by 50 percent as the result of competitive pricing and promotions.
It's important not to confuse sales with shipments. Huberty expects Apple to sell more than 6 million units this year. However, Wall Street is not as sanguine over the iPad's sales prospects and has settled for a more conservative estimate of 3-4 million units.
Acer has a long road ahead of it if the company wants to be king of the notebook hill by next year (and Acer does). As if that weren't ambitious enough, the climb to No. 1 will get a little bit steeper if Acer's notebook shipments remain flat this quarter, as the company expects they will.
According to Acer CEO Gianfranco Lanci, notebooks shipments will likely stall sequentially in Q1 2010, yet still be up 40-45 percent over the same quarter one year ago.
The company's notebook shipments might have actually fallen, if not for strong orders from Europe, the Asia Pacific, and North Pacific. And going forward, Lanci expects shipments to pick back up and grow 25-30 percent on year.
There's also been some talk of component shortages, and while Lanci admitted to a few GPU shortage issues, he expects this to become a non-issue by the end of the month.
Mobile CPU shipments grew 35.7 percent in 3Q09 to bail the industry out from what is now a receding crisis. The Intel Atom processor merits a special mention as it led the industry's comeback during the quarter. But the low average selling price of Atom processors meant that the record growth in shipments did not quite translate into record revenue.
"While Atom processors led the PC processor market to reach record unit shipments, on the revenue side, their low average selling price led to notable price erosion, more than 7 percent." said Shane Rau, director of semiconductors for personal computing research at IDC.
"The market's growth has been due to shipments of inexpensive Atom processors being sold into markets like China, which is being stimulated by government incentives there," said Rau.
Though nobody expected Windows Mobile 6.5 to break any ground, it even failed to fulfill whatever few expectations people may have had. It is hard to imagine Windows Mobile 6.5 spurring handset shipments. However, HTC CEO Peter Chou claims there is strong demand for the company’s Windows Mobile 6.5-based HTC HD2 smartphone.
Although HP and Dell are planning to introduce new ultra-thin notebook models, based on Intel’s Consumer Ultra Low-Voltage (CULV) platform, in the fourth quarter, Digitimes Research has forecast a rough road ahead for the segment. According to Digitimes’ research wing, global ultra-thin notebook shipments are expected to account for 4% of all notebook shipments in 2009. It anticipates that 6 million ultra-thin notebooks will be shipped this year. It blamed their high prices for their low desirability with respect to netbooks. “In terms of the price/performance ratio, the ultra-thin notebooks' components carry higher prices than most of the standard parts, but their working performance is only slightly better than netbooks,” said Joanne Chien, senior analyst at Digitimes.
AMD has posted its second-quarter results. Though AMD merely extended its losing streak by posting another quarterly loss, this fresh loss of $330 million is a touch less depressing compared to the $1.2 billion loss it posted for the same quarter last year. The company’s revenue in the second quarter stood at $1.18 billion. The chip maker is hopeful of a better showing in Q3 2009. This optimism is also shared by market analysts as they expect the PC market to show a strong upward trend in the next half.