Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Chinese firm Lenovo had a surge in sales of their personal computers last month. Most of the rest of the industry did not. NPD Group, the research organization, reported that sales for the industry were down 6% from October to November. That is not good news for the industry as it enters the heart of the holiday season.
There were some unexpected results in the report on November PC sales. Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ), the market share leader, had a 15% drop in unit sales from October. HP is such a large part of the overall market that its problems caused most of the fall-off in total sales for the industry.
Apple did well as usual. Its sales rose 19%. The new MacBook line has sold well. Apple is also being adopted by more businesses. This was not the case just two years ago when most IT executives said they did not want to have to support Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Windows PC platforms along with the Apple and Linux operating systems. Employee demand for Macs may have overwhelmed IT plans.
Apple was outdone by Toshiba, which had a 22% improvement over October and Lenovo which had a 69% improvement. NPD attributed the surges to the fact that both companies sell inexpensive netbooks. That is not an adequate explanation for Lenovo’s increased sales. A large number of its PCs are premium products sold under the IBM ThinkPad brand. IBM sold its PC operation to Lenovo nearly a decade ago. ThinkPads are often extremely expensive machines sold to corporate customers.
The change in the fortunes of the large PC companies may be due to a rotation in the sector. HP and Dell have traditionally been the top two companies in US market share. Apple’s brand, helped by sales of its iPhone and iPad products, has become a preferred product due to functions and features that many personal computer users want. Lenovo, on the other hand, has learned a great deal about desirable features as the No.1 PC maker in China. It is a leader in sales throughout Asia. Lenovo management has promised to attack the US market though use the its technical prowess and the low cost of manufacturing in China.
The best days of HP and Dell may be behind them, at least in the US.
Douglas A. McIntyre