U.S. PC Sales Break Record in Fourth Quarter

By Antonio Perez
Antonio Perez
Antonio Perez
January 14, 2010 Updated: January 14, 2010

NEW YORK—Computer sales during the last quarter of 2009 jumped 24 percent in the United States, led by brisk notebook sales, according to industry research firm IDC.

PC shipments totaled 20.7 million during the last three months of 2009, which is a record, IDC said. Hewlett-Packard Co. led the pack, selling 6 million computers and supplanting Dell Inc. as the top seller.

Taiwan’s Acer came in third place in the United States, followed by Toshiba and Apple.

In a statement, IDC analyst David Daoud commented that the U.S. market exploded. Spurred by low-priced notebook computers, U.S. consumers snapped up PCs—most notably laptops—during the holidays as retailers slashed prices to move inventory.

A similar report by Gartner Inc. also supported the recovery in the computer market. Gartner said that worldwide PC shipments jumped 22 percent to 90 million units, aided by the timely release of Microsoft Windows 7.

“These preliminary results indicate the recovery of the PC market on a global level,” said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner, in a statement. “The U.S. and Asia/Pacific had already shown positive indicators last quarter, however the fourth quarter 2009 results were more concrete evidence of the recovery.”

But investors are anxiously awaiting fourth-quarter earnings reports from technology companies to look at the impact on their bottom lines. Many analysts attributed the sales gains to aggressive discounts during the holiday season to lure shoppers and beat sales targets—often at the expense of profitability.

“Aggressive promotion by PC vendors and channels stimulated consumer PC demand,” Ms. Kitagawa said. “However, some vendors made damaging price cuts to increase market share.”

The sales increase capped a good ending to a roller-coaster year for PC makers and worldwide shipments during 2009 eked out a modest 2.3 percent gain over 2008.