PC sales grew just 1.9 percent during the first quarter of 2012, according to a new report from Gartner.
The research giant had predicted sales would decline 1.2 percent during the quarter. It said sales in Europe and the Middle East were better than expected, offsetting slowdowns in India and China.
“While the PC industry has high expectations for strong growth in the emerging markets, the slowdown of these countries in this quarter provides a cautionary notice to vendors that the future growth for the PC industry cannot heavily depend on the emerging markets even though PC penetration in these regions is low,” Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner, said in the release.
Fellow research giant IDC followed with its quarterly report, pegging PC sales at 2.3 percent, up from its forecast of a 0.9 percent decline.
IDC said hard-drive shortages from last year’s flooding in Thailand continue but the large PC makers had better access, managed inventories and absorbed price increases. As a result the big vendors kept PC shipments moving while smaller PC makers saw the expected declines.
PC makers should see bigger gains later this year. PC sales historically rebound after slow periods, driven by new technologies and need to replace aging systems, IDC’s Loren Loverde said in the release.
“As a result, we expect PC shipments to pick up significantly by the fourth quarter and beyond as HDD supply and pricing are normalized, Windows 8 is launched, and replacements pick up,” he said.
The news foreshadows upcoming earnings reports from Microsoft — next Thursday — and Intel on Tuesday.
There were a few bright spots in Gartner’s report.
Hewlett-Packard emerged from its internal funk and grew nearly twice as fast as the overall market and held its global lead on the PC business. Its sales grew 3.5 percent, Gartner said.
Lenovo posted a 28 percent gain, driven by sales in Europe and the Middle East and sales of business systems, according to Gartner.
Dell’s sales fell along with overall sales of lower-end consumer systems as consumers were lured by Web tablets and other gadgets in the same price range.
IDC estimated HP’s global growth was 3.2 percent and Lenovo’s were 43.7 percent during the quarter.
In the U.S., HP sales were up 6.6 percent, Dell’s were down 3.6 percent and Apple’s were up 3.8 percent, according to Gartner. IDC’s numbers for HP and Dell were the same, but it said Apple’s PC sales were up 5.1 percent.
IDC said sales in the U.S. were slow for several reasons. Businesses are “still cautious” and consumers are evaluating different prodocts and may be waiting for Windows 8 to arrive, perhaps in the fourth quarter.
That fourth quarter – the holiday season – “will likely determine if there is any growth at all in the U.S. market in 2012,” Loverde said.
In other words, it’s up to Microsoft and its PC partners to deliver with the Windows 8 wave.
A few charts from Gartner’s report: