During the consumer-driven back-to-school season last summer, PC sales by unit in UK distribution grew strongly as private purchases sought out both deskbound and portable PCs.
Much of the consolidated 19 per cent year-on-year unit desktop sales growth via UK distribution in Q3 was due to buoyant consumer interest in deskbound entertainment devices. Of all Windows-based desktops sold through our UK distributor panel, sales growth of those with consumer OSes increased 66 per cent year on year – although it was from a smaller base. Business OS-based system sales only grew eight per cent year on year in the quarter.
Healthy back-to-school demand was even more strongly felt in the portable segment. Individuals are increasingly seeking lightweight mobility with connectivity. Consolidated notebook sales in Q3 were up 33 per cent year-on-year in UK distribution.
Growth was also boosted by a strong demand for consumer mainstream systems. Of all Windows-based mainstream notebooks, those with consumer OSes increased their sales 54 per cent year on year. Again, the larger base of business OS-based portables only grew 16 per cent.
However, by October back-to-school consumer demand had faded. Consolidated notebook and desktop unit growth then fell to 13 per cent compared with 2009, down from the 28 per cent growth year on year seen in September.
Notebook sales grew 15 per cent; desktop sales a mere four per cent.
The resulting increase in notebook share – 78 per cent of PC sales in October;76 per cent in September -- also affected the storage segment. While overall sales of internal hard disk drives (HDDs) grew just six per cent during the month year on year, 2.5in drives suited to small notebooks saw sales grow 36 per cent in the period.
The 3.5in drives traditionally used in desktops saw growth eight per cent down in October when compared with the same period in 2009.
The average distributor selling price for a 2.5” internal HDD also spurred sales – an ASP of £77 in October was 17 per cent less than July’s high of £93, and stable year on year. The fall in ASP also went against the consolidated pricing trend for internal HDDs, which saw consolidated pricing go up in October compared with 2009 – especially as 3.5in HDD prices rose 18 per cent year on year to £78 in October 2010.
Our data also confirms this influence.
The recent decline in pricing of 2.5in internal HDDs, an expected peak in pricing promotions during the run-up to Christmas, an increased mix of consumers buying during the period, and potential competition from product launches in the tablet PC segment, were all likely to lead to continuous sequential declines in notebook pricing during November and December. We will soon be in a position to release that data.
In October, notebook pricing had already begun to reflect the impact of declining component costs and a pound that was stronger against the greenback. Notebook ASPs via distribution fell from £396 in September to £388 in October.
While Desktop pricing was also probably affected by pre-Christmas retail promotions, and by an increased consumer mix, our data indicated it would probably be less strongly affected by internal-HDD component price declines than notebooks. And there is increasing consumer interest in high-end deskbound entertainment devices for the home, such as all-in-one systems with multitouch functionality.
Alexandre Mesguich is vice president of enterprise research at Context
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