Despite a tumultuous 2011 that was mired by supply side challenges and weakening consumer demand, IDC found that the A/NZ PC market ended the 2011 calendar year with 6.8 million units shipped and a year-on-year (YoY) growth of six per cent.
The surprise winner in the PC market was the wunderkind from Cupertino, Apple, which claimed top position as number one consumer brand in Q4 in Australia.
Despite operating for decades in the Australian market, this was the first time the historically niche focused Apple reached the top spot.
A/NZ market analyst, Amy Cheah, said Apple’s strong momentum in the local market can be attributed to “the halo effect” of other Apple products that have contributed to elevating the brand name as a whole.
“The vendor was able to gain mind share and eventually wallet share by focusing on delivering innovative and quality products, essentially establishing itself as household name associated with novelty and quality,” she said.
Cheah also points to the establishment of Apple Stores nationwide as being an effective channel for the vendor to “reach out directly to its customers” and in the process expand its consumer presence.
While Apple’s unique range of Mac desktops and notebooks have been around for several years, it has left many industry pundits wondering why Apple became number one in Q4 2011 and not earlier or later.
While Cheah admits Apple has been grown every year for the last 10 or so years, starting off from a small base in the premium category to expanding into the mainstream market, Apple’s entry into sub-$1000 range during Christmas 2010 with the now obsolete white Macbook was what finally enabled the vendor to gain traction among “mainstream consumers who previously could not afford a Mac device”.
“The affordability of Apple devices further fuelled its upward momentum and it became a matter of time before the vendor overtook other PC brands to become the number one consumer brand,” she said.
While Apple had a stellar year in 2011, the same could not be said for the overall PC market, as outside of the healthy education sector, IDC found that commercial uptake of PCs was sluggish across A/NZ
PC vendors might be quick to point the finger at media tablets cannibalising the market, but Cheah does not see the popularity of media tablets with consumers being “the key influencer” in this case.
“Excluding education, Q4 is seasonally a soft quarter for the commercial sector considering the shorter sales and operating period for businesses,” she said.
Often vendors look forward to the Christmas season as a way to generate big sales, but IDC ultimately found that the spending for 2011’s Christmas period was somewhat “sporadic”.
While the European sovereign debt crisis was likely an inhibiting factor on consumer confidence, leading to a tightening of consumers' discretionary spending, Cheah sees it more as a case of wary customers caught in the middle of a price war among vendors.
“The weakness in the Christmas sales was a sign of sales fatigue, with much of the sales being brought ahead by aggressive promotional activities the previous quarter,” she said.