The UK PC market experienced a marked decline in the fourth quarter of 2011, with shipments down by 20 per cent compared to the same period a year earlier.
This picture was reflected across Western Europe, according to research firm Gartner, as consumers turned to smartphones and tablets, and business buyers held off from desktop refresh plans due to economic uncertainty.
"Despite aggressive pricing and special holiday deals for PCs, consumers' attention was caught by other devices, such as smartphones, media tablets and e-readers," said Gartner principal analyst Meike Escherich.
PC shipments going to the business and professional segment of the market also declined 13.5 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2011, despite ongoing upgrade programmes to the Windows 7 platform.
The figures point to four successive quarters of declining sales, with total PC shipments for the whole of 2011 in Western Europe coming to 58.5 million units, a 16 percent drop on 2010.
Even the growth in handset sales is slowing, according to figures published last week by IDC, which would seem to indicate that PC shipment declines are part of a broader picture, as technology buyers hold off purchases across the board due to economic woes.
But some vendors can draw a crumb of comfort from the figures, as HP actually increased its share of the market against rival Acer, while Dell managed to increase shipments in Germany thanks to several large enterprise and government deals.
Gartner warned that the hard disk drive shortage had yet to fully bite in the fourth quarter of 2011, and that the PC market could see further declines in 2012.
"If general market conditions continue to deteriorate, we expect hard disk drive shortages to be just one of many contributors to overall PC market contraction in 2012," said Escherich.
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