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January 14, 2009 1:20 PM

PC sales stank last quarter, but HP, Apple and a few others kept growing

Posted by Brier Dudley

No wonder there's been so much buzz about layoffs at Microsoft: PC sales just stank in the last quarter.

Mirroring the awful fourth quarter for overall retail sales, PC sales fell 0.4 percent in the fourth quarter, according to a new report from research firm IDC.

The holiday season drop pulled annual PC sales growth down to 10.5 percent, after averaging 15 percent a year over the last five years.

"As expected, demand for PCs in the U.S. faced a challenging environment, with a substantial reduction in spending among both consumer and commercial segments amid tightening credit, eroding confidence, and growing unemployment. Not only unit growth was constrained, but the value of the market also shrank as a result of competitive pricing and the introduction of lower-priced mini notebooks,'' IDC's Doug Bell said in the release. "Unfortunately, the first half of 2009 looks pretty shaky as the economic fundamentals need to recover before spending on PCs will resume."

Also released today was the annual PC sales report from Gartner, the other big tech research firm. It said the PC industry "suffered its worst growth rate since 2002" in Q4 with shipments increase just 1.1 percent, to 78.1 million units. For the year, Gartner estimated PC sales grew 10.9 percent to 302.2 million units sold.

IDC estimated 77.3 million PCs were sold in the fourth quarter and 297.2 million through 2008. It said sales of portable computers -- including laptops and netbooks -- continued to grow, but the growth rate fell by about half, to 20 percent from 40 percent. The firm estimated that about 5 million netbooks were sold in the fourth quarter and 10 million through the year, and shipments will double in 2009. Desktop PC sales pulled the overall volume down by 16 percent.

HP remained the biggest PC seller and Acer and Toshiba posted big gains globally, largely because of their strong lineup of portable computers.

In the U.S., Apple continued to gain share. At year end Macs had 7.7 percent of the PC market, up from 6.2 percent the year before. But Acer was the big success story, jumping to 9.1 percent from 5.8 percent of the U.S. market with 62 percent growth during the year.

Some tables from the report:

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