PC shipments plunged by 16 per cent in Western Europe both in the fourth quarter of 2011 and over the full year, when compared with 2010. PC suppliers shipped 16.3 million units in Western Europe in Q4, and 58.5 million units in 2011. While the UK did badly, with shipments falling almost 20 percent in Q4, the PC markets in Italy, Greece, Portugal and Spain did even worse, with "year-on-year PC demand declining 30 percent and more," on Gartner's preliminary numbers.
HP and Dell were hit hard in the UK, with only Apple showing impressive growth. However, in Western Europe, both Lenovo and Asus managed to increase their PC shipments in a market that was hit by sustained economic recession and by growing shipments of high-priced smartphones and tablets. Either way, PC companies didn't appear to get the boom they might once have expected from Christmas.
In a statement, Gartner principal analyst Meike Escherich said: "Uptake of professional PCs for migrations to Windows 7 remained subdued due to the troubled economic outlook. PC shipments in the professional segment declined 13.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011, but the consumer segment suffered a bigger decline, falling 18 percent."
In the fourth quarter in Western Europe, HP remained the largest supplier, and fractionally increased its market share to 22.2 percent despite shipments falling by 15.7 percent. This was due to the now-familiar disaster at Acer, which saw shipments fall by 46.1 percent. Asus overtook Dell, increasing its shipments by 1.5 percent. Lenovo, in fifth place, increased its shipments by 13.9 percent, making it the most successful of the Windows PC vendors, though it did benefit from taking over Medion. (Apple failed to make the Top 5.)
In the UK, fourth quarter shipments plunged by 19.6 percent to 2.9 million units. "This was the UK's fifth consecutive quarterly shipment decline, and also its worst decline in five quarters. In 2011, as a whole, the U.K. market declined 15.9 percent, shrinking by nearly 2 million units from 2010," said Gartner.
The UK's Q4 numbers were a horror story for leading PC suppliers, with HP's shipments falling by 27.0 percent, Dell's by 32.3 percent, Toshiba's by 5.4 percent and Acer's by 62.4 percent. In the Top 5 table (below), only fourth-placed Apple managed to grow shipments by 17.2 percent.
Gartner says that UK netbook ("mini-notebook") shipments fell by more than 50 percent in Q4, "indicating the final stage in a shift away from these devices by PC vendors (in the third quarter of 2009 these devices represented over 30 percent of the U.K.'s total mobile PC market)".
Ranjit Atwal, a research director at Gartner in the UK, said: "PC vendors face a long, uphill struggle to regain the interest of consumers. The introduction of Ultrabooks in late 2011 is desperately needed".
In France, PC shipments fell by 11.8 percent to 2.8 million units in Q4, and by12 percent to 10.4 million units for the full year. Asus was the star in Q4, increasing its shipments by 17.4 percent compared with Apple's 15.3 percent increase. However, Acer's shipments plunged by 45.5 percent.
HP was still dominant, taking 25.2 percent of the French market in the fourth quarter. HP was followed by Asus (14.7 percent), Acer (14.4 percent), Dell (11.4 percent), and Apple (8.2 percent).
In Germany, PC shipments fell by 8.2 percent to 3.6 million units in Q4, and by 11 percent over the full year.
Acer was the largest supplier, with 16.0 percent of the German market in Q4 on shipments down by 27.5 percent. Acer was followed by Lenovo (14.2 percent), HP (12.7 percent), Asus (12.2 percent) and Dell (10.0 percent). Dell increased its shipments by 12.5 percent. Gartner said: "Dell secured several large enterprise and government deals. It was the only top-five vendor to increase its shipments, aided by its lower reliance on the consumer business."
It remains to be seen whether the worst is over. Shipments in this year's first quarter could take a further hit due to the flooding in Thailand, which led to a shortage of hard disk drives and corresponding price increases. And with the Euro zone still threatened by a financial meltdown, replacing an older PC will probably not be high on most people's agendas.