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GfK explains all the computing trends in the month of March

GfK Data Analysis: Changing times for computing

Martine Tolmay, GfK senior account manager, IT, looks at the technology retail trends that were evolving earlier this year and sees a potentially promising future.

March was a strong month for IT, with total panel market sales in 34 per cent value and 20 per cent volume growth year on year. The main contributors to the category’s volume growth were software, webbooks (GfK’s name for tablets) and desk computing, which grew by respectively 54 per cent, 222 per cent and 24 per cent in terms of volume and 27 per cent, 211 per cent and 26 per cent in terms of value. Desk computing’s growth was heavily skewed toward B2B, and software’s growth was driven primarily by B2B licence renewals. In the wake of the Thai floods, and due to rising HDD prices and scarcity, storage increased its IT value share from seven per cent to 12 per cent year on year and decreased its volume share from 11 per cent to six per cent.

Total computing (PCs plus webbooks) retail sales showed an impressive 32 per cent volume growth and 31 per cent value growth year on year. A closer look at the computing form factors (Retail) reveal some interesting trends: Taking the lengths of months into account, notebooks showed positive value growth for the first time in 13 months (eight per cent volume growth and five per cent value growth). For what seems like too long, webbooks have been anchoring the total computing market, putting it into growth where otherwise there would have been decline. Could this be a change in tides with notebooks re- establishing their growth?

The positive signs do not end here, though, as desktop computing displayed positive volume as well as value growth (one per cent and 11 per cent respectively for March) for the second consecutive month. Netbooks, on the other hand, have been facing steeper than usual year on year declines the last three months, and it’s possible that the form factor is being de-prioritised due to the hard disk drive shortage. Last but not least, webbooks have been continuing their strong growth amid a well-publicised launch, and captured 43 per cent of the volume share and 38 per cent of the value share of total computing retail for the month.

A look at ASP by form factor (Retail) reveals clearly the impact of the hard disk drive crisis, with notebooks, netbooks and desktops showing price increases Q4 2011 on Q3 2011 and Q1 2012 on Q4 2011. In contrast the ASP of the predominantly flash drive driven webbook market stayed relatively stable over these periods. Notably netbooks and AIOs, which have been in price decline over sustained periods, were taken into year on year ASP growth in Q1 (7.5 per cent and 1.5 per cent respectively). Notebooks, which have been experiencing strong price decline since Q3 2010, showed slight ASP growth year on year for Q1.

It seems that, despite the dire impact of the HDD crisis, it may have had the unforeseen effect of adding value to the market. Furthermore, in light of these price increases, it is encouraging to see that volume sales of the main PC form factors, notebooks and desktops, weren’t dampened and displayed growth year on year for the month of March.

In short, March was kind to computing. A turnaround in some major trends will need time to prove their longevity amid news of a double dip recession, albeit technical. But, glimpses of what could be are indeed promising.

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