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Apple continues growth while PC makers see sharp decline in Europe

New PC shipment data for Western Europe reveals that Apple was the only one of the top five vendors to grow in the second quarter as the region's PC shipments declined 19 percent.

Gartner reported the data, which does not include media tablets, on Wednesday. Though Apple's 0.5 percent growth in the region in the June quarter may not seem like much of a victory, the significance comes into focus when compared with the performance of its competitors.

Because of the drop in shipments from competing PC vendors, Apple's market share in the area climbed from 5.6 percent to 7.0 percent with 879,000 Macs shipped during the quarter.

Acer saw the largest decline, falling from first place as shipments of low-cost netbooks dried up. The vendor saw a drop of 44.6 percent year over year, shipping just 2.05 million units, compared to 3.69 million a year ago. The company, which led the "race to the bottom" for low-margin PCs, restructured its European operations last quarter and took a one-time charge because of "questionable" accounts of its inventories and receivables.

Asus also saw a sharp drop in shipments — 22.9 percent year over year. Meanwhile, HP and Dell fell as well, 6.1 percent and 12.7 percent respectively.

Overall, the PC market in Western Europe declined 18.9 percent in the second quarter. Mini-notebook shipments were hit the hardest, falling 53 percent, while desktop PCs dropped by just 15.4 percent.

Data includes desk-based PCs and mobile PCs. Media tablets are excluded. | Source: Gartner (August 2011)

“The much anticipated uptake in the professional segment, in the wake of migration to Windows 7, was subdued by the negative economic outlook,” said Gartner principal analyst Meike Escherich. “PC shipments in the professional segment declined 9 percent in the second quarter of 2011. The biggest decline continued to come from the consumer segment which decreased 27 percent year-on-year.”

“This quarter’s results highlights the ongoing weakness of consumer demand, and could indicate a structural change in the market that threatens to continue in the near future,” she said.

In the U.K., Samsung managed to grow 5.2 percent year over year, ahead of Apple's 1 percent growth in the country. The Korean electronics giant was the fourth largest PC vendor in the U.K., though it did not break the top five for the whole region. Apple posted 6.4 percent growth in France, while its first- through fourth-place competitors posted steep declines.

The analyst noted that increased interest in tablets in countries such as Germany and France has contributed to some of the decline in the PC market. “Given the hype around media tablets such as the iPad, retailers were very conservative in placing orders for PCs,” she said. “Instead, many of them wanted to secure space for media tablets.”

Last week, one analyst said tablet makers hoping to challenge Apple's iPad dominance may have a better shot in Europe. According to her report, Apple's smaller retail presence may provide competitors with the opportunity they need to gain traction in the market.