Worldwide PC shipments fell less than expected in the first quarter of 2009, but market watcher IDC has cautioned that key markets remain weak.
Its Quarterly PC Tracker found that shipments fell during the period by 6.8 per cent: the biggest decrease since the third quarter of 2001, but less than had been anticipated.
Worryingly, IDC has for the first time cited evidence that the netbook market is cannibalising sales of laptops. According to its figures, netbooks continued to outperform expectations, with shipments reaching 5.7m. However, IDC stated that that success contributed to a decline of 3.1m laptops from the same time last year.
Consumer demand led much of the growth in Western Europe, along with the US. Much of that was spurred on by sales of netbooks and declines in average selling prices.
However, despite strong sales, consumer demand was not enough to halt the region slipping back into a decline. IDC said that the growth of the fourth quarter 2008 had disappeared and was not expected to return until the third quarter. It added that it does not expect double digit growth to return until 2011.
"The economic crisis continues to dampen PC demand and force changes in the market," director of IDC's Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker, Loren Loverde commented.
She said that Western Europe and the US were performing better thanks to their channels being much better geared to deal with the current problems. "Mature regions are navigating the changes better than emerging regions in the short-term as finances remain more liquid, but from 2010 forward emerging regions will have the advantage in both growth and volume.
"Meanwhile, the concentration of growth in the consumer segment and in evolving categories like netbooks is quickly raising the stakes of competition."
However, IDC believes that there are green shoots appearing. "Despite a relatively slow first quarter, industry supply chain checks suggest that the worst is over and we are starting to be more optimistic about volume growth at the end of the year and especially into 2010," vice president, Clients and Displays, Bob O'Donnell added.
He said that a combination of new SKUs and the launch of Microsoft's new operating system should be enough to provide a jump-start to the channel.
"New product introductions coming this fall, including low-cost, thin-and-light consumer portables, low-cost Intel Atom-based all-in-ones, and, of course, Windows 7, should provide a spark that helps to push market towards positive shipment growth over the next 12 months."