Tablets Deliver Another Blow to the PC Industry

With consumers no longer viewing personal computers as the number one gift, and problems that go far beyond a weak economy, preliminary worldwide PC shipments declined in the fourth quarter.

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According to Gartner, the world’s leading information technology research and advisory company, PC shipments on a global basis totaled 90.3 million units in the fourth quarter, representing a 4.9 percent drop from the prior year. Despite the hype for the holiday shopping season and the launch of Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) new Windows 8 operating system, more mobile options are changing how people view and purchase PCs.

“Tablets have dramatically changed the device landscape for PCs, not so much by ‘cannibalizing’ PC sales, but by causing PC users to shift consumption to tablets rather than replacing older PCs,” said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner. “Whereas once we imagined a world in which individual users would have both a PC and a tablet as personal devices, we increasingly suspect that most individuals will shift consumption activity to a personal tablet, and perform creative and administrative tasks on a shared PC. There will be some individuals who retain both, but we believe they will be exception and not the norm. Therefore, we hypothesize that buyers will not replace secondary PCs in the household, instead allowing them to age out and shifting consumption to a tablet.”

The top players…

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Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) regained the top spot in worldwide PC shipments in the fourth quarter, but still posted a decline in shipments when compared to a year earlier. Analysts suspect HP sacrificed margins to gain market share.

Screen Shot 2013-01-14 at 9.04.08 AMLenovo came in second with almost 14 million PC shipments in the fourth quarter, an 8.2 percent jump from the prior year. It was the best growth rate among the top five PC vendors worldwide. Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) rounded out the top three with 9.2 million shipments, down 20.9 percent from the same quarter in 2011.

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) shows growth in the United States…

In the U.S., PC shipments totaled 17.5 million units in the fourth quarter, a 2.1 percent decline from a year earlier. HP took the top spot with 4.7 million units, a 12.6 percent increase. However, Dell logged another sharp decline, with shipments plunging 16.5 percent to 3.4 million. Apple, the world’s largest publicly traded company by market capitalization, logged a 5.4 percent gain. Lenovo also showed an increase of 9.7 percent.

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“Consumer’s holiday spending went into other products and services, and U.S. holiday sales became less important for PC sales. For professionals, the fourth quarter is typically a good sales season because of last minutes PC purchases before the tax year-end. Our early research indicates that there was good growth in professional PC sales,” Ms. Kitagawa said.

The results echo a report from IDC last week that says total PC shipments fell to 17.8 million units in the fourth quarter. HP, Dell and Apple were also the top three vendors in the U.S., according to the firm.

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