Apple and Lenovo make shocking Q3 PC sales gains

I'm quite critical of the Apple Fanclub of bloggers and journalists for overreaching pretty much anything regarding the Cupertino, Calif.-based company. They'll quote data from firms no one has heard of to make Apple and its products much bigger successes than they are. And because this group is so loudmouth, their exaggerations and lies are widely read and often taken for fact. But ever so occasionally, something altogether legitimate comes along. Today is that day. Mac market share soared during third quarter, according to Gartner and IDC, which both released preliminary data today.

By Gartner's reckoning, Apple's percentage of US PC shipments during the quarter was a stunning 12.9 percent, a solid and unchallenged third place. Fourth-ranked Toshiba had 8.4 percent share. IDC's numbers weren't as magnanimous -- 11.3 percent -- but still better than Apple has had in nearly two decades. But there's more than shocking Mac news in the data. Lenovo has unseated Dell as the No. 2 PC manufacturer worldwide, according to both analyst firms. With HP considering selling off its PC division and given Lenovo's dramatic gains, the China-based company could snatch the top spot in just a few quarters.

“Lenovo has captured incredible marketplace momentum to surpass two competitors to capture the No. 2 spot in worldwide PCs over the span of just two quarters", Lenovo CEO Yuanqing Yang, says in a statement. "This is the highest rank Lenovo has achieved in worldwide PC sales and, given the current competitive environment, positions the company as a strong challenger to ultimately become the global market leader".

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Apple and Lenovo successes come during another tough quarter for PC manufacturers. Shipments rose 3.2 percent year over year, according to Gartner, missing its forecast of 5.1 percent growth. IDC put growth lower -- 2.7 percent -- and off its 4.5-percent growth forecast. Manufacturers shipped 91.8 million PCs, according to both analyst firms.

An alarming trend continued: "The popularity of non-PC devices, including media tablets, such as the iPad and smartphones, took consumers' spending away from PC", Mikako Kitagawa, Principal Gartner analyst, says in a statement. "The PC industry has been performing below normal seasonality. As expected, back-to-school PC sales were disappointing in mature markets, confirming that the consumer PC market continues to be weak".

While consumers shift buying priorities to more personal, portable devices like smartphones and media tablets, there's a related factor: The economy, which has forced PC manufacturers to slowdown shipments. However, "the inventory buildup, which slowed growth the last four quarters, mostly cleared out during the third quarter of this year", Kitagawa says.

"For the moment, PCs have taken a backseat to a range of other devices competing for shrinking consumer and business budgets," Jay Chou, IDC senior research analyst, says in a statement.

"Most vendors continue to struggle with the slow market environment and product changes", Loren Loverde, IDC vice president, says in a statement. "We don't see media tablets and other devices replacing PCs", but he calls them "distractions" dragging sales. "Still, there are opportunities, as demonstrated by Lenovo's gains".

Note: First two charts are from Gartner, second two from IDC.

"While growth is expected to stay in mid-single digits in the fourth quarter, we should see faster growth in 2012 and beyond based on easier comparisons and refreshed PC offerings as the industry better addresses the evolving usage models by integrating more of the features in ultra mobile devices", Chou says.

Perhaps, but in the world's largest economy, PC sales look grim going into holidays, with Apple, HP and Lenovo in best shape. US PC sales grew 1.1 percent during third quarter, which isn't much to cheer about. Gains can largely be attributed to channel restocking after three earlier quarters of declines. By comparison, IDC put US shipments flat year over year.

"The main contributor to the weak consumer PC market in the US. was intensified competition for consumers' money", Kitagawa says. "Media tablets and smartphones took center stage in the US retail sector, and the expectation is for continuing demand for these devices throughout the holiday season".

But IDC sees broader problems -- "the state of saturation and lack of incentives for consumers to upgrade", David Daoud, IDC research director, says in a statement. "Inhibitors included the poor economic environment and, to a certain extent, iPad cannibalization". For the holidays, "the opportunity for low single-digit growth is real, but mostly as a result of poor market conditions last year, as opposed to a recovery in demand".

MacBook Air lifted Apple PC shipments during Q3, according to Gartner's preliminary estimates. Going into the holidays, Acer and Asus, among others, will seek to capture some of that thin-and-light magic with their first Ultrabooks. But Apple has huge retail presence, just from its 245 company stores, and from partners like Best Buy.

Meanwhile, Lenovo's gains are global and far outpace Apple. IDC noted that Lenovo's growth exceeded the market by more than 10 percent for nine straight quarters and by more than 20 percent for six consecutive quarters. The company benefits in part by resoundingly capitalizing on "disarray among the other top players".

14 Responses to Apple and Lenovo make shocking Q3 PC sales gains

  1. Anonymous says:

    I just got my new Lenovo Thinkpad W520 a few weeks ago for work. i7 + Crucial M4 120GB SATA3 SSD + 16GB RAM. This thing is awesome. Windows 7 is FAST on this thing. All of my coworkers are going Thinkpad as well. No one is buying HP's or Dell's this round of laptop refresh. Lenovo is moving up quick because everyone is starting to notice that they don't make CRAP like HP and Dell do. If you want the Win7 PC equivalent of a Mac Book Pro then you need something like the W520.

    • psycros says:

      A friend of mine just showed me his today.  Its amazing how little the look has changed since the IBM days, but I'm a huge fan of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" so its cool.  If they had a model with smokin' video I'd probably get it.

  2. psycros says:

    Apple, HP and Lenovo make quality products for the most part and offer value to particular market niches.  Lenovo is also completely Chinese, which gives them a major competitive advantage.  Then there's the spending trend that we've seen during previous recessions.  Those who have any real money to spend are getting the best they can afford, which is pretty typical for a slow economy.  Only when times are good do the masses tend to throw dollars at less compelling products - when times are tight, average folks reserve that disposable income for cheaper thrills like beer and movie rentals.  Another factor that's often overlooked is the rise of the informed buyer who can access tons of consumer info online.  For  most of the past decade the biggest advertiser always won, but the rise of independent review sites, blogs and the like is increasingly giving savvy shoppers the upper hand.  Anyone who doesn't offer real value will quickly gain a crowd-driven rep that pummels their bottom line.

  3. Crazyman5839 says:

    "I'm quite critical of the Apple Fanclub of bloggers and journalists for overreaching pretty much anything regarding the Cupertino, Calif.-based company. They'll quote data from firms no one has heard of to make Apple and its products much bigger successes than they are. And because this group is so loudmouth, their exaggerations and lies are widely read and often taken for fact."

    haha Joe do you think before you begin to ramble?

  4. woe says:

    Words like "Grim" and such are way over used to get hits.  So growth ends up being 5% for the year.  What did they sell last year...350 million PC's  So this year they sell 370 million?  If so I would describe that as slower GROWTH, not GRIM.

    GRIM to me would be they end up selling 220 million PC's this year.  

  5. scophi says:

    What happened to Acer?  -23.2%, -25.4%, -20.6%   Did they go out of business halfway through the quarter?  How do you drop 20-25% of your sales in one quarter?

  6. scophi says:

    What happened to Acer?  -23.2%, -25.4%, -20.6%   Did they go out of business halfway through the quarter?  How do you drop 20-25% of your sales in one quarter?

  7. alandenman says:

    Quite obvious that Apple would have a big gain.
    Apple have proved that few need more than the tiniest cheapest lowest power CPU available.

    So similarly people are now quite happy to pay double for a supposedly pretty Mac that has quite similar limited computing ability.

    Its that funny old world where we all follow.

    • Natalia Osa says:

      Not completly. Bought Lenovo x120e 4 months ago. However constatnt and VERY annying fan noise was driving me mad, even tho i've set higher acceptable temperatures (so on battery, 800MHz CPU, fan wasn't turning on). Also problems with flashing screen and... i've changed to the new Apple Air model. As far, even tho Air was double price than x120e i think it was worth. So quiet now xD!

  8. Anonymous says:

    IMO the biggest part of the PC market problem is that while a PC used to be a 2-3 year device, now they last 5-6 years.  Those who disagree with my numbers probably still see the point - in 1996, you wished your PC was faster on the day you got it.  Now, it's hard to see the performance improvement in a current PC over a 3-4 year old one.

    The other thing is, I remember when I got my first Nintendo console in the late 1980's.  I couldn't wait to get home and play it.  Now, I have a fast new PC and any software I want, but I never feel the same desire to sit down for some real fun.  Unless someone finds a way to make a PC exciting, it'll just be an appliance people use to pay their bills.

    I view mobile devices as add-ons, and no mobile device would replace my PC.  But unless someone comes up with a way to make the PC as fun and exciting as the old Nintendo, it won't get much more attention than a good microwave, and I won't be rushing out to upgrade every two years like I did in the old days.  That tablet lets me answer trivia questions in a bar, and watch silly YouTube videos while waiting in line.  The PC lets me pay my bills and prepare my tax return.  My old PC will do tax returns just as well as a new one, so the discretionary budget goes to the tablet.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Lenovo is also growing by acquisition.  It isn't simply organic growth.  This should be noted.

  10. bruce lindley says:

    Dell is finally seeing the long term results of failing to adequately service their customers. My family is directly  responsible for some of the 8% increase in Apple and 7% decrease in Dell on the last chart. After having IPODs we bought IPADS. Happy with the performance and service, we made the next laptop purchase a Macbook.  I am not sure if we will ever buy a new desktop to replace our aging Dell. But if we do guess what it will be. 

    When an Apple product malfunctions, they work with you to solve the problem, as quickly and nicely as they can. Plain and simple good service.   It's not just the device, it's the support network. AND IT'S NOT SOMEONE IN INDIA!!

  11. alandenman says:

    HP do make some brilliant stuff. Dell do too but are getting less competitive and are now too slow with the new models.

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