Growth in European PC shipments will slow down in 2005, creating a very "challenging environment" which will become even more competitive as IBM/Lenovo reveals its strategy for the region, Gartner has warned.
The analyst firm reported that EMEA shipments totalled 61.7 million units in 2004, a 14 per cent increase from 2003. In the fourth quarter, shipments rose to 19.5 million units, an 11.7 per cent increase from the fourth quarter of 2003.
"2004 was a strong year showing double-digit growth throughout the year. The market in Europe was strengthened by favourable exchange rates, strong mobile growth and by businesses finally replacing their PCs, " said Ranjit Atwal, an analyst at Gartner's Computer Platforms group in London.
"In the fourth quarter of 2004, the EMEA market experienced a weaker than expected desk-based consumer market. But this was balanced by strong demand for notebook PCs from business users.
"Prices remain under significant pressure. Many retailers are finding it difficult to sell at anything other than entry-level prices, although average prices for commercial PCs remained stable despite the continued depreciation of the dollar versus the euro."
On a vendor basis, Acer produced the strongest market growth yet again, with 35.5 per cent year-on-year growth in the fourth quarter. The company posted strong growth in shipments of desktop PCs, and extended its lead in the EMEA mobile PC market.
In contrast, HP's market focus "remained inconsistent" with a poor quarter compared to its main rivals. Despite achieving strong growth in the consumer PC market, HP's shipments of commercial PCs were flat year-on-year, leading to only single-digit growth overall.
Gartner noted that the EMEA PC market continues to move at two speeds: the combined growth of the top 10 PC vendors was closer to 20 per cent, while vendors in local country markets recorded less than five per cent growth.
Strong notebook sales pushed up overall global PC shipments in 2004 by 11.8 per cent year-on-year, according to the market research.
Preliminary results from Gartner suggest that slightly poorer than expected sales of consumer PCs failed to hold back the market as a whole.
"Overall fourth-quarter 2004 PC sales were in line with projections, despite some weakness in the US and EMEA consumer markets," said Charles Smulders, vice president of Gartner's Computing Platforms Worldwide group. "Lower prices, better performance and wireless accessibility accelerated mobile sales."
Dell strengthened its lead in the worldwide vendor market with solid performance in all regions. "In the fourth quarter, falling component prices allowed Dell to further lower prices and gain margin and market share," said Smulders.
Gartner reported that HP's PC shipments increased 12 per cent in 2004, although the company faced "some challenges" at the end of the year.
HP's growth rate in the fourth quarter was lower than the worldwide average due to slower sales in its key US and EMEA markets.
During the fourth quarter, IBM announced that it would sell its PC business to the Lenovo Group of China. Lenovo will move up to third place in the worldwide PC market rankings after the acquisition is completed, Gartner said.
The stress on PC vendors from operating on such low margins led to IBM's exit, according to Smulders, who predicted that there would be "further consolidation going forward".
In November, before the IBM/Lenovo announcement, Gartner forecast that three of the top 10 PC manufacturers worldwide would leave the market by 2007.
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