PC and notebook sales increased strongly in the past quarter, as corporate refresh cycles began to kick in.
According to analyst IDC, sales for the fourth quarter last year were up 18 per cent on the same quarter a year earlier. Sales for 2003 were up 14.8 per cent on 2002, with notebook sales up by more than 40 per cent.
Notebook sales in particular have been driven by strong demand from SMEs and consumer markets, and only shortage of supply held the market back.
Karine Paoli, research director at IDC's EMEA personal computing group, said: "There's a clear improvement over last year.
"Corporate refresh cycles are starting to boost sales, and we think that will be repeated in 2004 as budgets free up further and some of the larger corporates start wholesale upgrades.
"In the longer term, however, there's a move away from the PC towards notebooks, and this will only get more prevalent as time goes on."
Intense price competition and price rises for some key components have meant that margins on PCs are still fairly tight. Shortages of flat-panel displays, particularly at the 15in size, look set to continue this year.
Server sales were also strong, with sales up 30 per cent in the UK. Blade servers were particularly popular, and IDC suggests this may mean they are the top choice for renewals. Here again SMEs were driving demand.
Almost all of the major vendors have been focusing on the channel to build demand. Acer in particular was singled out for using the channel effectively to boost sales in western Europe.
Rebecca Eaton, head of product marketing at reseller Misco, said unit sales had definitely increased, but added that the news wasn't all good.
"Price point pressure has kept revenue down, unfortunately. Some manufacturers are trying to buy market share at the moment, but I see sales being strong for quite some time to come," she said.
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