IDC: PC shipments slumped as 2011 ended

A sluggish economy, other device options, and a lingering hard-drive shortage hampered PC sales worldwide

Sales of personal computers slowed in the last three months of 2011, thanks to a sluggish economy, scarce hard drives, and the proliferation of other device types such as tablets, according to a report released today by IDC.

Overall, worldwide PC shipments totaled 92.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2011, down 0.1 percent compared with the same quarter in 2010, when 92.8 million computers were shipped. For all of 2011, about 352.4 million PCs were shipped, a 1.6 percent increase over 2010, when almost 346.8 million PCs were shipped. The U.S. was particularly hard hit: Sales dropped nearly 5 percent from 2010, from 75 million units to 71 million units. Sales in Europe and Japan also slowed, though sales improved in China.

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Sluggish sales were due to several factors, according to the analyst firm. Last year's shortage of hard disks, caused by flooding in Thailand, caused some smaller providers to scramble to find enough drives for PCs. The global economy also continues to be sluggish, discouraging people from purchasing new computers. In addition, people spent money on consumer electronics such as tablets, smartphones, and e-readers that took over some of the duties previously handled by the PC.

IDC expects sluggish sales to continue through the first three months of 2012 as the hard drive shortage continues. By the end of the year, sales should recover, growing 15 percent in the last quarter of the year. Overall, IDC expects 371 million PCs to be shipped in 2012, an increase of 5.4 percent.

Some vendors fared better than others in this slow season. Hewlett-Packard, still reeling from an announcement earlier this year that it would spin off its PC division (a decision reversed later), saw its shipments fall by 16 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011 as customers wondered about the company's future. The decline persisted even after the company stated it would not spin out the hardware division after all. HP, still the world's biggest PC maker, sold about 15 million PCs worldwide in the past three months. Lenovo, the second largest, saw an sales increase of more than 36 percent, selling more than 13 million PCs. Dell saw a small uptick in sales and sold about 11.9 million units.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for the IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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