Research giants IDC and Gartner say growth in PC sales declined in the fourth quarter, partly due to brisk sales of tablets --but, despite the fact that sales growth is slowing, manufacturers still shipped record numbers of PCs worldwide in 2010.
"Overall, holiday PC sales were weak in many key regions due to the intensifying competition in consumer spending. Media tablets, such as the iPad, as well as other consumer electronic devices, such as game consoles, all competed against PCs," Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner, said in a statement e-mailed to InternetNews.com.
A second market research heavyweight, International Data Corp. (IDC), weighed in with a similar viewpoint.
For one thing, IDC also blamed tablets like Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPad for cutting into PC sales numbers, but the two research firms' estimates were very similar as well.
"Fourth quarter growth was slightly less than a projected increase of 5.5 percent, but shipments of 92.1 million for the quarter still were the largest ever," an IDC statement said. "Total shipments for 2010 reached 346.2 million, an increase of 13.6 percent [year-over-year] that was fueled by a strong recovery in the first half of the year," IDC added. IDC's final metric for the fourth quarter of 2010 over 2009 came out to 2.7 percent.
In comparison, Gartner reported estimated sales of 93.48 million PCs for the fourth calendar quarter, and 350.9 million for all of 2010. Gartner said 2010's growth over 2009 came in at 13.8 percent for the year, and growth of 3.1 percent for the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, in October, Gartner estimated that 19.5 million iPads would ship in 2010.
Although the market for new PCs continues to grow, however, anticipating its vagaries have been vexing for analysts.
In fact, less than two months ago, Gartner revised down its PC sales estimates for 2010 and 2011, largely due to explosive sales of the iPad. At that time, Gartner lowered its guidance for 2010 to 352.4 million PCs shipped by year end with an annual growth rate of 14.3. The actual numbers even fell below the firm's November revised estimates.