The UK PC market faces "a long, uphill struggle" in 2012 after it once again lagged behind its western European counterparts during a miserable fourth quarter.
Figures from Gartner reveal that total Q4 UK PC shipments fell 19.6 per cent annually to 2.95 million. Market leader HP suffered a sales slump of 27 per cent, and its 618,000 unit shipments gave it a 21 per cent share of the market.
Second-placed Dell saw its quarterly shipments fall 32.2 per cent on the corresponding period last year to 408,000, giving the Texan firm 13.8 per cent of the market. Despite a 5.4 per cent Q4 decline in units shipped, third-placed Toshiba has seen its market share jump from 8.5 to 10 per cent in the past year.
Apple, in fourth, was the quarter's only big winner, with shipments growing 17.2 per cent to 267,000. The Mac maker's market share has swelled from 6.2 to 9.1 per cent over the past 12 months.
Fifth-placed Acer's annus horribilis came to a suitably nightmarish end. The Taiwanese firm's quarterly shipments plummeted 62.4 per cent to 230,000. Its market share was cut by more than half in 2011, falling from 16.7 to 7.8 per cent.
The market's smaller players had more joy in Q4, with shipments for everyone outside the leading quintet growing 5.8 per cent to more than 1.1 million. The percentage of the market held by non-top-five manufacturers has risen more than nine points to 38.3 per cent during the past year.
Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner, told ChannelWeb that the hard-disk drive supply issues could potentially lead to inventory shortages, resulting in PC price rises in 2012. This, in turn, could slow corporate refresh cycles, he predicted.
"There is nothing that is really helping the PC industry move forward at the moment – everything is stacked against it," he added.
Atwal claimed that many enterprises might look at a variety of client compute platforms beyond traditional desktops.
"Organisations are re-evaluating their device portfolio and are trying to understand better where PCs are most valuable within their organisations, and how they can supplement them with other devices or, in some cases, replace them," he said.
"[This is] not necessarily [just about] getting smartphones in and looking to tablets, but also thin clients; [they are asking] ‘what is the best way to do the applications?' ‘Do we really necessarily need a full-fat client?'"
The UK's decline exceeded that of the other major western European markets, with French Q4 shipments falling 11.8 per cent year on year, and the German market contracting by 8.2 per cent. The PC markets in the troubled southern European economies of Italy, Greece, Portugal and Spain shrank by more than 30 per cent in Q4, according to Gartner.
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