For the first time in 15 years, the world bought less PCs than it did the year before, according to two new reports.
Research from both IDC and Gartner Dataquest show April-June sales down 2 per cent (IDC) and 1.9 per cent (Gartner) respectively on figures for the same period in 2000, and around 7 per cent below the first three months of the year.
The slump has hit PC makers, chip manufacturers and has had a knock-on effect on other IT workers who have seen profits and jobs disappear.
That it has spread from the US and Europe to Asia appears beyond doubt. IDC reported that in Japan, where sales increased 30 per cent last year, sales would be "flat to negative into 2002".
PC makers have tried to stimulate demand by price-cutting, but this is not enough, according to Gartner Dataquest principal analyst Todd Kort.
Kort wants vendors to improve PC design and think beyond the simple price/performance metrics that have traditionally dominated the industry's thinking.
"Without a major shift in the PC industry structure, future sustained high-growth rates are improbable," he warned.
However, IDC research director Roger Kay suggested that the worst of the slump would be over by the end of the year.
"Businesses are spending cautiously, and consumers have still not emerged from their shells, but there is some hope that the worst is behind us," he said.
Kay predicted that the October arrival of Microsoft's Windows XP combined with holiday spending would give the market a modest boost.
While the overall market has declined, Dell has managed to boost both shipments and its market share to become the clear global leader. IDC said this was due to "Dell's aggressive pricing and ability to react quickly to changing market conditions".
Dell's sales have grown between 15-20 per cent on the same period last year, depending on which analysts figures you look at, while Compaq's have fallen between 8-14 per cent. IBM and Hewlett Packard's numbers showed a fall of just over 7 per cent.
Dell now has a market share of 13.4 per cent (IDC) or 13.1 per cent (Gartner), compared to the 12.1 per cent (IDC) or 11.2 per cent (Gartner) of second placed Compaq.
Third is IBM with 7.2 per cent (IDC) or 7.0 per cent (Gartner), with Hewlett Packard in fourth place on 6.9 per cent (IDC) or 6.8 per cent (Gartner).
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