Businesses that flushed calendar year-end budgets came to the aid of the PC market in late 2013 – but not in the sort of numbers that could have rescued the sector from its consumer-induced coma.
According to the bean counters at IDC, 26.7 million traditional portables and desktop were sold into EMEA channels during Q4, some 6.4 per cent fewer machines than shipped a year ago.
"The holiday season offers were unable to inspire an upturn in consumer spending, which continued to concentrate on tablets," said Chrystelle Labesque, IDC EMEA research manager.
This resulted in yet another blow to notebook sales, which dropped nine per cent in the quarter. Labesque added that there were some cyclical signs of life in the desktop space, which only fell in unit terms by 1.7 per cent in EMEA but actually grew two per cent in Western Europe.
"Enterprises have been maximising their budgets before year-end, resulting in stabilisation on the desktop PC market," she said.
Evidence of this was seen in Computacenter's results last week as the London-based reseller giant, one of the largest in Europe, revealed that product sales rallied 18 per cent in Q4 due in part by B2B refreshment activity.
In Western Europe, overall commercial PC sales - desktops/ notebook - edged up 1.9 per cent but retailers continued to behave cautiously in the market, leading to an 8.3 declined in consumer sales-in.
This is the third consecutive quarter that business system sales outstripped consumer sales, as the end of XP support looms and corporate enterprises replace ageing systems in refreshment activity.
The PC market in Central and Eastern Europe and in the Middle East and Africa declined ten per cent in Q4 with flakey demand from both individuals and companies. 2013 proved to be one of the worst on record for the region, with a decline of 19 per cent.
There were little let up in pressure on vendor sales across the whole of EMEA for Q4, with market leader HP declining 7.3 per cent, as Lenovo narrowed the gap on the back of a 27.1 per cent rise in shipments.
Acer declined again, though at 7.6 per cent this was by a smaller amount than in previous quarters, while Dell was down 3.9 per cent.
Taiwanese firm ASUS was the only other top five player to grow, albeit at just 1.9 per cent.
For the year, PC sales fell 15.7 per cent to 88.3 million units, with portables down 19 per cent and desktops dropping by 9.6 per cent.
There is a feeling among analysts that the market may have bottomed out and the only way is up, and there are some PC vendors and suppliers praying they are right. ®