PC Sales Grow, Prices Decline

Netbook sales growth slowed significantly amid a third consecutive quarter of double-digit growth across all PC sales and average prices declined, according to Gartner.

Following three consecutive quarters of double-digit growth, average selling prices of PCs are falling at a much slower pace than in the last two years.

Global PC shipments in the second quarter rose 20.7% from the same quarter last year to 82.9 million units, according to Gartner's preliminary quarterly market report released Wednesday. The increase was higher than Gartner's earlier forecast of a 19.3% increase.

The latest numbers marked the third consecutive quarter of double-digit growth year to year in shipments. End-user spending, meanwhile, increased by about 13% in the quarter.

"Average selling prices continue to decline, but at a much slower rate compared with the last two years," Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa said in a statement.

Driving ASPs down over the last two years, which included the worst recession since the Great Depression, was the popularity of inexpensive netbooks, which are mini-laptops that sell for less than $500. While netbook shipments in the second quarter rose in the low 20% range, the increase was far less than the more than 70% increases in the last two quarters.

"This slowdown indicates that mini-notebooks are entering a mature growth stage," Kitagawa said.

Hewlett-Packard remained the number one PC maker worldwide in terms of shipments, but its growth rate fell below the industry average. Rather than boost shipments by joining rivals in reducing prices in the Asia/Pacific region, HP chose to protect profit margins, Gartner said.

Meanwhile, low-priced PC maker Acer saw strong shipment growth to maintain its number two position, while third-place Dell registered its second consecutive quarter of double-digit growth, driven by stronger sales to businesses.

Rounding out the global top five were Lenovo, which increased shipments by more than 47% through lower prices, and fifth-placed Acer, which recorded the strongest growth in shipments among the top-five vendors with an increase of 78.5% year to year.

In the U.S., PC shipments overall increased 16% from a year ago to 17.9 million units. While surging sales of Apple's iPad media tablet cannibalized sales of netbooks and consumer laptops a bit, it wasn't clear whether this phenomenon would last.

"It is not certain at this stage if the cannibalization will continue with the current price point of media tablets," Kitagawa said.

HP and Dell maintained their number one and number two positions, respectively, in the United States, while Acer held on to the number three spot, despite flat growth. Meanwhile, fourth-place Apple recorded strong Mac shipments with no signs of iPad cannibalization. Toshiba rounded out the top five.

Gartner rival IDC also released its quarterly report this week. IDC found a 22% increase in PC shipments worldwide.

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