Italian PC market growth 'driven by notebooks'

The Italian PC market returned to double-digit growth in the first quarter of 2008, with shipments rising by 13.5 per cent year on year, according to market-watcher IDC. Notebook momentum continued most particularly in the consumer space, where sales grew by 35.6 per cent, fuelled by ultra-portables like the Asus Eee PC.

Unlike the rest of the region, the desktop market posted 2.5 per cent growth, boosted by outstanding performance in the corporate segment, reflecting healthy enterprise renewal activity. IDC expects the second quarter and second half of the year in particular, to remain driven by the continued transition to mobility, multi-equipment purchases in the homes, and declining price points across all segments – which should lead to an 11.7 per cent increase in overall PC shipments in 2008.

Sustained notebook demand remained the key engine of market dynamics. Benefiting from fierce competition between top brands in the retail market (as well as increasingly attractive products and new designs at affordable prices), consumers continued to renew their laptop and/or buy additional systems for the homes. Transition to mobility continues, with the share of notebooks rising to 69 per cent of total PCs – up from 58 per cent a quarter ago – boosted by accelerating multi-equipment purchases, as increasing segmentation by usage scenarios is fuelling demand for a wider range of products, from ultra-portable to transportable models.

The launch of Asus's Eee PC brought additional momentum, IDC reckons, making ultra-portable notebooks affordable to a wider customer base for the first time. An increasing number of low-cost models will hit the market in the second half of the year, which, coupled with telco offers, will create additional buoyancy in the consumer notebook space throughout 2008 – boosting portable penetration in low-income segments and other new-buyer categories, such as the senior population.

Several low-cost ultra-portables were announced in the second quarter of 2008 by international, as well as Italian, vendors: they are expected to contribute to a successful back-to-school/Christmas season, boosting consumer notebook growth to 31 per cent in 2008. HP, Dell, and Acer, already announced their own low-cost ultra-portables. Olidata, the biggest Italian vendor, launched the JumPC in June (2008), which is the first Italian-made ‘Netbook’, uses Intel's Classmate PC, and targets six- to ten-year-olds. The main differentiator is the Magic Desktop software: this features an interface designed for children.

Olidata's JumPC will be available in big Italian retail stores (such as Auchan or Euronics); customers will also be able to buy it bundled with a broadband connection from Telecom Italia or Tiscali.

“PC vendors are aiming to embrace the masses with low-cost notebooks – like mobile phones did – covering a large breadth of the population, from grandparents, who will use it to communicate online with the youngest generation, to inexperienced buyers and children, as well as fashionable teenagers,” says Nicolina Angelou, research analyst for IDC's EMEA Quarterly PC Research Group.

Like consumers, SMBs (businesses with 1-499 employees) also continued to opt for portability, with the share of notebooks rising up to 58 per cent (versus 52 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2007). In line with the forecast, notebook growth in the SMB segment posted overall moderate growth at 6.3 per cent, affected by the Italian political uncertainty and elections in April. Commercial notebooks overtook commercial desktops for the first time this quarter, assisted by the ongoing renewal of the installed base and the replacement of desktops by notebooks.

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