Computer shipments in Western Europe totaled 16.3 million units in the fourth quarter of 2011, a 16% decline from the equivalent period in 2010, according to Gartner ( Apple was one of the few companies that, overall, bucked the trend.

For the year, computer shipments numbered 58.5 million units in Western Europe in 2011, also a 165 decrease from 2010. The computer market in Western Europe has suffered four consecutive quarters of shipment decline.

“Despite aggressive pricing and special holiday deals for PCs, consumers’ attention was caught by other devices, such as smartphones, media tablets and e-readers,” says Meike Escherich, principal analyst at Gartner. “Even though we saw a drop in prices, consumer coomputer shipments could not match the levels of previous years.”

In the fourth quarter of 2011, the computer markets of Italy, Greece, Portugal and Spain were particularly hard hit, with year-on-year computer demand declining 30% and more. The mobile computer market in Western Europe declined 17.5% during the quarter, while the region’s desktop computer market decreased 12.1%.

HP not only maintained the No. 1 position for computer shipments in Western Europe, but it increased its lead over Acer, despite a shipment decline of 15.7% in the fourth quarter of 2011. Acer continued to decline, but steadied its shipment volumes quarter-on-quarter. Dell struggled with slow demand from large organizations and the public sector, while Asus won several major deals in the retail channel, which raised its total.

In the fourth quarter of 2011, shipments in the U.K. personal computer market totaled 2.9 million units, a decline of 19.6% compared with the equivalent period in 2010. This was the UK’s fifth consecutive quarterly shipment decline, and also its worst decline in five quarters. In 2011, as a whole, the U.K. market declined 15.9%, shrinking by nearly 2 million units from 2010.

“The UK market has been a prime illustration of the underlying weakness in PC demand across Western Europe,” says Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner.

In the fourth quarter of 2011, the U.K. computer market was impacted by the economic upheaval and the growing popularity of smartphones, media tablets and e-readers. As a result, the consumer market continued to shrink, with a decline of more than 20 per cent year-on-year. The professional market was also weak as austerity measures hit the education segment.

Mini-notebook shipments declined more than 50% in the fourth quarter of 2011, indicating the final stage in a shift away from these devices by computer vendors. In the third quarter of 2009 these devices represented over 30 % of the U.K.’s total mobile personal computer market.

Four of the top five vendors performed poorly. Only Apple achieved growth, which consolidated its hold on the No. 4 position.

Personal computer shipments in France totaled 2.8 million units in the fourth quarter of 2011, a decline of 11.8% compared with the equivalent period in 2010. In 2011 as a whole, computer shipments numbered 10.4 million units, a 12% decline from 2010.

“The personal computer market in France remained weak, with lower sell-in to the channel and a difficult economic environment that squeezed consumer spending,” says Isabelle Durand, principal analyst at Gartner. As a result, the computer market in France recorded its sixth consecutive quarterly decline in shipments. 

The consumer market declined 11% in the fourth quarter of 2011 as demand for mini-notebooks was lower than in the same period in 2010.

“The last quarter of the year is traditionally driven by growth in the consumer segment, but Christmas computer sales in France were disappointing as consumers spent their money on other devices, such as media tablets and smartphones,” says Durand. The professional market declined 13% n the fourth quarter 2011, despite a number of deals being signed in the public sector.

In the fourth quarter of 2011, the mobile computer market accounted for 68% of total computer shipments in France, while shipments declined 9.5 %. Desk-based computer shipments declined 16.5%. Shipments of mini-notebooks decreased 36.5%.
Of the top five vendors, only Apple and Asus grew in the fourth quarter 2011. Asus achieved the strongest growth and claimed the No. 2 position. HP regained the No. 1 position, while Acer’s market share collapsed as demand for mini-notebooks diminished, causing it to fall to the third position.

“Overall, we expect the computer market to remain under pressure in the first half of 2012, and although shortages of hard-disk drives had only a limited impact in the fourth quarter of 2011, we expect substantial increases in average selling prices in the first quarter of 2012,” says Durand.

Personal computer shipments in Germany totaled 3.6 million units in the fourth quarter of 2011, a decrease of 8.2% compared with the equivalent period in 2010. This was the sixth consecutive decline for the German computer market. In 2011 as a whole, computer shipments declined 11% from 2010.

“Although personal computers remain important devices for consumers, there are few compelling technological reasons for them to buy new ones, especially in times of economic uncertainty,” says Escherich.

The computer market in Germany continued to suffer from poor sales of mobile computers. Mobile computer shipments sell 9.2% in the fourth quarter of 2011. This decrease was steeper than that of the desk-based computer market, which declined 6%.