Western Europeans buying netbooks for Christmas provided some cheer in an otherwise gloomy fourth-quarter PC market.
Netbooks accounted for 2.5 million of the 20.1 million PCs shipped in Western Europe during the quarter, according to new figures from Gartner.
Shipments rose 12.1 percent year on year, but without the netbooks they would have been in decline. Even with the netbook boost, fourth-quarter growth was lower than for the year as a whole, for which shipments were up 17.2 percent on 2007, said Gartner.
The biggest winner was Asustek Computer, maker of the Eee PC. It shipped 1.49 million units in the fourth quarter, up from 513,000 a year earlier, a growth rate of 190 percent, and its market share rose to 7.4 percent from 2.9 percent a year earlier, according to Gartner estimates. Another prominent netbook manufacturer, Acer, saw its shipments grow just 12.4 percent according to Gartner -- but with its market share of 20.3 percent Acer already had a significant business selling traditional laptops before the netbook came along.
Talk of winners is perhaps a little premature: the rise in shipments was not enough to compensate the decline in the average selling price of a PC, which fell 15 percent year on year, according to Gartner.
Not even sales of small, cheap computers could help other regions, said Gartner, with Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa all hit by the economic crisis.