China rules the PC world

03 May 13

China rose to the top of the PC market for the first time ever last year, relegating the US to second place with a lead of over three million units.

In a report released by IHS Research, PC shipments to the country amounted to 69 million units during 2012, exceeding the 66 million total reached by the US.

Only a year earlier, the US was the leading global destination for PCs, but beyond its large size, IHS says China’s PC market exhibits distinct characteristics that set it apart from the computer trade elsewhere.

Possessing a vast untapped rural market and unique consumer-purchasing patterns, as desktop PC shipments lagged notebooks around the world, the two PC segments were on par in China, with an even 50-50 split.

“The equal share of shipments for desktops and notebooks in China is unusual, since consumers in most regions today tend to prefer more agile mobile PCs, rather than the bulky, stationary desktops,” says Peter Lin, senior analyst for compute platforms, IHS.

“The relatively large percentage of desktop PC shipments in China is due to huge demand in the country’s rural areas, which account for a major segment of the country’s 1.34 billion citizens.

"These consumers tend to prefer the desktop form factor.”

Lin predicts the market will change gradually as desktop PCs face rising competition from the high value proposition presented by notebooks.

Like the rest of the world however, PC demand in China remains weak as consumers migrate to using mobile devices like cellphones, with the market is projected to grow only as much as 4% this year.

Even so, a vast market opportunity continues to exist for PCs in the country, in the form of potential first-time buyers mostly residing in the countryside.

The government already plans this year to invest some 40 trillion yuan—equivalent to some $6.4 trillion—to build rural infrastructure in the next 10 years, and PC original equipment manufacturers can take advantage of the initiative to build out and expand from the cities, IHS believes.

China is also on track to retain its position as the largest PC market in the world for the foreseeable future unchallenged and alone—further providing PC brands a rare opportunity for expansion, counter to the myriad travails they face in the rest of the world.

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