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Commercial PC market holding steady course

This year has started much as the last one ended, with the business customer base continuing to drive the fortunes of the PC market, according to Context

It is a case of steady as she goes in the PC market, with the trends of the past 18 months continuing into 2020.

Hardware resellers have long got used to the idea that the corporate market is driving spending, with the consumer side remaining soft as users in that segment shift their spending across a range of alternative devices.

Research from Context, which gets its numbers directly from distribution, has indicated that the year started well, with sales increasing across Western Europe in January.

The analyst house charted a 7% increase in volume sales year-on-year in the first month of the year, with a 15% improvement in commercial PCs as the engine for that improvement.

During January, Microsoft switched off support for Windows 10, which drove customers to upgrade ageing hardware. Commercial notebook sales were up by 5% and desktops by 38%. The number of workstations sold also increased – stationary systems by 21.5% and mobile machines by 11.8%.

Consumer sales were down by 4% year-on-year in January. But amidst the gloom there were some bright spots, with AMD PCs, Chromebooks and ultra-slim models all proving popular with users. The problem was that the volume of sales of those products was not strong enough to reverse the overall negative trend.

Intel CPU shortages continued to be a problem, and are likely to cast a shadow over 2020 as a whole. There are also some concerns that the coronavirus could have an impact. Many will have been cheered by the return to work of many Chinese workers this week after an extended Lunar holiday, but there are worries about the virus’s ongoing impact on supply chains.

“The current coronavirus outbreak is also presenting a challenge to the industry,” said Marie-Christine Pygott, senior analyst at Context. “While disruptions to the PC supply chain are inevitable, the extent of the impact will depend on how soon production levels in China revert to full capacity, and on how quickly the spread of the virus can be contained.”

She added: “In response to the present situation, vendors are expected to ramp up production in facilities outside China where possible, and the latest Context data on components suggests that channel players have started to stockpile PC parts while they are still available.”

The channel was urged earlier this week to look closely at stocks and consider brand preferences to make sure they were managing supply risks.

Dell published its fourth-quarter numbers last week, for the year ended 31 January, and it also commented on the ongoing strength in the commercial PC market but warned that now the Windows 10 upgrade effect was waning, it might be a tougher second half of the year.

“In FY21, we expect the PC market to remain solid through the first part of the year before declining in the second half,” Jeffrey Clarke, vice chairman and COO of Dell Technologies, told analysts. “This means we are facing a tougher time as the Windows 10 refresh wanes.”

Country splits

Context numbers for January 2020 year-on-year PC volume growth in distribution:

Germany 21.9%, UK 20.2%, Italy -18.9%, France 2.0%, Spain 2.5%, Netherlands 14.4%, Switzerland 6.9%, Belgium 2.9%, Austria 17.9%, Finland 11.5%, Norway 7.6%

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