The global PC market posted a slight increase in volume during the first quarter of 2012 (1Q12) compared to the same quarter in 2011, with shipments rising 2.3%.
According to IDC, the results were slightly above February projections of a 0.9% year-on-year decline due to hard disk drive (HDD) supply constraints, weak economic conditions, competition from other devices (tablets) and uncertainty about Windows 8.
Indeed, HDD supply remained a "key constraint" through most of the first quarter, although PC manufacturers typically had better access to drives than customers in the retail and distribution channels.
As a result, industry heavyweights maintained shipments by managing inventory or absorbing price increases, while the impact to shipments from smaller PC makers was in line with expectations.
"PC market growth remained limited in the first quarter as HDD supply and other factors limited demand," IDC VP Loren Loverde confirmed.
"Nevertheless, history has shown that periods of slower growth are followed by recovery as improving technologies make replacements as well as new purchases increasingly compelling. As a result, we expect PC shipments to pick up significantly by the fourth quarter and beyond as HDD supply and pricing are normalized, Windows 8 is launched, and replacements pick up."
Loverde also noted that relatively slow growth in the US indicated the market remains conservative and focused primarily on replacements, despite new form factors like all-in-one (AIO) desktop PCs and Ultrabooks.
"Commercial buyers are still cautious, while consumers are evaluating multiple products and may be waiting for the release of Microsoft Windows 8 later this year. [As such], the US PC market is likely to remain constrained at least until the launch of Windows 8, which is expected in the fourth quarter of 2012.
"We expect vendors, retailers, and channel partners to be working very hard this year to focus their product lines and their general operations as they prepare for the year-end holiday season, because that alone will likely determine if there is any growth at all in the U.S. market in 2012," he added.