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October 15, 2008 5:59 AM

Third-quarter PC shipments grow 15 percent, tech earnings season arrives

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Analyst firm Gartner reported third-quarter PC shipments grew 15 percent year-over-year to 80.6 million units, lead by strength in the newer mini-notebook segment. But analysts continue their skeptical view of the tech sector -- which begins reporting September quarter earnings this week -- in anticipation of tighter IT budgets.

"In the North America market, the economic crunch created more interest in the sub $500 segment," Mika Kitagawa, principal analyst for Gartner's Client Computing Markets group, said in a press release. "Because the mini-notebook is still a new segment, it is too early to determine if the emerging segment created new market opportunities, or if it cannibalized lower priced systems."

OEMs ASUS and Acer, early movers in the mini-notebook market, benefited from the trend, with Acer seeing shipments grow 47.3 percent in the quarter.

The economic downturn was evident elsewhere in Kitagawa report:

-- "U.S. professional market experienced the biggest hit from the economic crunch."

-- "U.S. home market saw definite softness in PC sales after a few quarters of strong growth" despite the seasonal back-to-school uplift.
-- U.S. shipments grew 4.6 percent in the quarter with mini-notebook sales accounting for about 1-2 percentage points.
-- "Asia/Pacific PC market was impacted by a slowdown in China."
-- "PC growth in Latin America was slow relative to historical levels, but it was still in line with the forecast."

H-P remained the No. 1 PC seller globally with 18.4 percent market share in the quarter. Dell stayed at No. 2 globally and No. 1 in the U.S.

Apple, which knocked $100 off its entry-level MacBook yesterday, maintained third-place in the U.S. market with 1.6 million units sold in the quarter, up 29.4 percent from a year earlier.

JPMorgan analysts downgraded Dell this morning from "overweight" to "neutral." Analyst Mark Moskowitz "cut his earnings estimate for the quarter ending in October to 32 cents per share from 35 cents, and his revenue estimate to $16.62 billion from $16.83 billion," The Associated Press reported. He also upgraded Apple and IBM to "overweight" from "neutral,"

Chip-maker Intel reported quarterly earnings yesterday of "$2.01 billion, or 35 cents per share, in the three months ended Sept. 27. That beat analyst expectations by a penny per share," AP reported. Sales grew 1 percent to $10.22 billion.

Upcoming earnings reports include:

Thursday: Advanced Micro Devices, Google, IBM
Tuesday, Oct. 21: Apple, Yahoo
Thursday, Oct. 23: Microsoft

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