The U.S. Gets Hit Again: We're No Longer the World's Top PC Market

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New data from research firm IDC says that the United States is no longer the top market for computer sales. China and its more than 1 billion people lead in PC purchasing. Call it just another hit to an economy that's already taken far too many.

Manufacturers shipped 18.5 million units worth $11.9 billion in sales to China in the second quarter. U.S. buyers spent $11.7 billion for 17.7 million computers over the same period, according to IDC.

Surprised? You shouldn't be. Not long ago analysts downgradedIntel (NAS: INTC) because of slackening PC demand. The chip maker is a top provider of processors to domestic computer makers, including Dell (NAS: DELL) and Hewlett-Packard (NYS: HPQ) , which just announced plan to exit the PC business.

China, meanwhile, is growing even as the U.S. struggles to fix its debt problems. Gross domestic product is on track to expand 9% this year and 7% over the long term -- and that's despite a serious battle with inflation that remains ongoing.

Does this mean U.S. tech dominance is at risk? Over the long term, possibly. For now, holiday shopping here should lift the U.S. back into the top slot for all of 2011, IDC says. Next year, the trend may reverse again -- perhaps for good.

As investors, that means it's time to start looking at the top brands in the region, including Lenovo and HTC. Or better yet, Apple (NAS: AAPL) , which saw Asia Pacific revenue rise 727% from 2005-2010 and generated 18% of last year's profit from sales in the region.

Or another bet could beNVIDIA (NAS: NVDA) . On their recent conference call, the company pointed to strength in China. Graphics card attach rates in the country sit at 80% while that number is mired in the 20s on stateside computers.

Do you agree? Disagree? Weigh in using the comments box below. And if you're in the mood for ideas for how to profit from the shift away from PCs, try this free report. In it, our analysts take an in-depth look at a company poised to reap a windfall from the rise of mobile computing. Click here to get your copy now -- it's 100% free.

At the time this article was published Fool contributorTim Beyersis a member of theMotley Fool Rule Breakersstock-picking team. He owned shares of Apple at the time of publication. Check out Tim'sportfolio holdingsandFoolish writings, or connect with him onGoogle+or Twitter, where he goes by@milehighfool. You can also get his insightsdelivered directly to your RSS reader.The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. The Fool owns shares of and has bought calls on Intel.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Apple, Dell, and Intel.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave also recommended creating a diagonal call position in Intel, as well as a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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