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Worldwide PC shipments increased just 0.5 percent in 2011 to 352.8 million units due to economic uncertainty and overall weak consumer demand, according to researcher Gartner.
The researcher added that slow PC growth may also occur in 2012 because of shortages of hard disk drives caused by flooding in Thailand.
In 2011, demand was stronger for PCs from emerging markets and from the professional market, but was not enough to offset sluggish consumer PC sales, Gartner reported.
PC demand was especially sluggish in the fourth quarter when unit shipments decline 1.4 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2010, according to Gartner.
“Continuously low consumer PC demand resulted in weak holiday PC shipments,” said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner. “While economic uncertainty in Western Europe had an effect on consumer PC shipments, expectations of a healthier economic outlook in North America could not stimulate consumer PC demand.”
PC shipments will be weak in the first half of 2012 because of hard disk drives shortages caused by flooding in Thailand, which shut down production of several hard disk drive facilities in October.
Drive shortages had little impact on fourth quarter 2011 PC shipments because there was inventory in the supply chain. A lot of that inventory has been worked off. Drive shortages will temporarily lower PC shipment growth during 2012, Gartner reported.
One potential driver for PC shipments in 2012 may be newly released ultrabooks, which are thin, lightweight portable computers that are expected to compete with media tablets.
Kitagawa said while ultrabooks were introduced in the fourth quarter of 2011, they drew little attention. However, many new ultrabook models were introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and could boost the PC market in 2012.