Pac-Rim PC shipments drop for first time in a decade

Asian PC shipments were down five per cent during the fourth quarter of 2008 compared to the same period one year ago, marking the first time in a decade the region, normally known for growth, has seen shipments fall, market research firm IDC said.

Preliminary numbers show Asian PC shipments, excluding Japan, fell to 17.2 million units during the fourth quarter — far short of the 19.8 million units forecast by IDC for the period. The market research firm has not recorded a decline in PC shipments for Asia since the third quarter of 1998, during the Asian financial crisis when widespread currency devaluations wreaked havoc on regional economies.

IDC said much of the shortfall in expected fourth-quarter PC shipments came from China, where domestic demand fell short of expectations.

“The optimist in us was hoping that, despite the global economic downturn, domestic demand would be strong enough to keep things moving in China. Turns out that didn’t happen,” said Bryan Ma, director of personal systems research at IDC Asia-Pacific, calling the fourth quarter numbers a “jaw dropper.”

The slowdown in Asian PC demand hit the largest vendor, Lenovo Group, hard, pushing down the company’s PC shipments by 4.4 per cent over the previous year. Second-ranked Hewlett-Packard also suffered, with its fourth-quarter shipments down 3.6 per cent.

Some companies did well relatively during the fourth quarter. Dell and Acer both saw PC shipments rise, but the big winner was Taiwan’s Asustek Computer. The maker of the popular Eee PC netbook saw Asian shipments climb 26.5 percent over the previous year, making it the region’s fifth-largest PC vendor.

Despite weak performance during the fourth quarter, overall PC shipments were up for the full year in 2008.

IDC said shipments rose nine per cent during the year, and noted this was better than the zero growth rate recorded for Asian PC sales in 1999. But PC companies are not out of the woods yet.

The chances of an economic recovery in 2009 look increasingly slim, with some predicting a long, painful recession ahead. That may spell trouble for PC makers during the coming year, with Asian PC demand expected to remain weak for at least a year.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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