Apple's Killing Your PC

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It isn't easy making a living in this country as a box seller, unless your name just happens to be Apple (NAS: AAPL) .

Gartner published its PC sales metrics for the fourth quarter last night. The industry tracker estimates that 17.9 million computers were shipped during the holiday period, a 5.9% decline from last year. The category includes traditional PCs, laptops, and mini notebooks, excluding the tablets and smartphones that are selling briskly these days.

If you want to make an ugly number even uglier, back out Apple. Take away the more than 300,000 computers it sold this past quarter relative to last year and this country's non-Apple PC shipments fell by a staggering 8.6%.

Sales have been sluggish outside of Apple for more than a year, but Hewlett-Packard (NYS: HPQ) and Dell (NYS: DELL) are really struggling right now.

Let's take a look at the market share changes over the past year.

Company
2011 Q4 Market Share
2010 Q4 Market Share
Unit Growth
HP23.1%29.4%(26.1%)
Dell22.4%22.1%(4.5%)
Apple11.6%9.0%20.7%
Toshiba10.7%10.3%(2.2%)
Acer9.8%10.4%(11.4%)

Source: Gartner.

Here are a couple of interesting nuggets from the data.

  • Dell and Toshiba may have gained market share, but it's a shrinking pie. Their total shipments actually declined.
  • Apple overtook laptop specialist Toshiba and Acer for the bronze this time.
  • Globally, the outlook is better, and Dell actually shipped out more PCs, but the global shipments still declined by a problematic 1.4%.

Gartner isn't optimistic about how things will play out in the near term. Floods in Thailand have resulted in a hard-disk-drive shortage that will limit the industry's shipments through at least the first half of this year.

This may all seem like gloomy news for Microsoft (NAS: MSFT) and accessory maker Logitech (NAS: LOGI) , but it's also quite possible that PC buyers have been holding back on Microsoft-powered machines until Windows 8 rolls out later this year. Once the new systems hit, Logitech will likely be back selling more third-party keyboards and optical mouse controllers, and Mr. Softy should be raking in its high-margin operating system revenue.

HP and Dell better hope that's the case. Apple keeps closing in with every passing quarter.

If you haven't read about thetwo wordsthat are giving Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer fits, it's a free report, so you as may wellcheck it out now.

At the time this article was published The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft, Apple, and Logitech International.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Dell, Apple, Microsoft, and Logitech International.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave also recommended creating bull call spread positions in Apple and Microsoft. 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.Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz calls them as he sees them. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story, except for HP. Rick is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.

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