The worldwide market for PCs grew just 2.7 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2010 despite generous pricing and Christmas promotions.
Figures from IDC put total shipments at 92.1m – making it the largest ever quarter. But analysts warned that softening consumer demand, the fading of interest in mini notebooks and competition from Apple's iPad all restricted PC sales in the period.
Many consumers now have some sort of computer so a new purchase needs to be, or at least appear to be, substantially better than what they have. Additionally, consumers remain cautious about spending their money on anything in an atmosphere of job losses and insecurity.
Total PC shipments for 2010 were 346.2m – pushed mainly by strong sales in the first half of the year.
The US market shrank 4.8 per cent year on year.
David Daoud, IDC's research director for its Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker, said: "Growth steadily slowed throughout 2010 as weakening demand and competition from the Apple iPad constrained PC shipments ... consumers are being more cautious with their purchases and competing devices have been vying for consumer dollars. This situation is likely to persist in 2011, if not worsen, as a wave of media tablets could put a dent in the traditional PC market."
IDC sees a similar softening of demand in Asia. Sales in Europe and Middle East and Africa suffered a weak Christmas thanks to high inventory levels, especially in retail, and consumer demand weakened by take-up of media tablets.
In terms of manufacturers, HP keeps the top spot but saw sales in the fourth quarter fall 0.9 per cent. Dell managed 4.2 per cent growth to keep second place. Acer lost 15 per cent of sales but stayed in third. Lenovo came fourth with 21 per cent sales growth.
More quarterly PC numbers from IDC . ®