PC vendors shrug off tablet threat

Manufacturers bullish in face of claims that tablets are grinding down desktop and laptop sales
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Acer, HP, and Asus have denied that the meteoric popularity of tablets is damaging standard PC sales, following research suggesting products like the iPad are cannibalizing the sector.

Last month market analyst iSuppli said worldwide PC shipments amounted to 81.3 million units in the first quarter of 2011, down 0.3 percent from 81.6 million in the same period last year. “The increasing momentum of the media tablet market, led by the iPad, is creating a difficult environment for the PC industry,” said Matthew Wilkins, principal analyst for compute platforms research at IHS, owner of iSuppli.

Research in this issue of PCR from GfK would seem to support this, with the analyst’s Chris Kennedy-Sloane saying of webbooks (GfK’s term for tablets): “Year on year growth is obviously very extreme, well over 20,000 per cent as to be expected for an almost brand new product. Of even more importance however, is that more webbooks were sold in March 2011 than netbooks and in fact the value of webbooks was more than twice that of netbooks in March 2011. Could this be cannibalization?”

While most PC vendors have some form of tablet offering alongside their PC business, the sector is overwhelmingly dominated by Apple. Bobby Watkins, UK general manager of Acer – whose shipments plunged by 20.4 per cent for the period according to the iSuppli figures – shrugged off the claims tablets are eroding PC sales.

“I see the total available market for consumer PCs overall growing in 2011 when considering desktop, notebook, netbook and tablet form factors. Certainly the tablet PC provides the consumer with an ultimate content consumption solution, but some people will still prefer a device with a keyboard to serve a similar aim. I believe it is too early to say ultimately how the consumers will make purchase and usage decisions. Whilst the initial signs from the Iconia Tab are really positive, it is premature to judge the element that is substitutional and what proportion is incremental to our total sell out volume as we are still dealing with a large element of launch momentum.”

HP UK and Ireland PSG vice president Paul Hunter acknowledged the traditional PC market may have reached maturity, but still expects growth: “There is huge excitement around the tablet computing market, and it’s something that we at HP have high expectations for with the upcoming launch of the HP TouchPad. While the UK PC market has recently exhibited signs of reaching maturity, we’ve seen good growth within individual product categories and still expect growth over the next two to three years. Additionally there are still huge growth opportunities in other markets around the world.”

John Swatton, marketing manager at Asus flat out denied the assertions: “We’re growing in the UK anyway, and are increasing quarter by quarter. We’re not seeing tablet sales effect the sale of PCs. We’ve always marketed our tablet as a companion device anyway. Asus UK is on target.”

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