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China Overtakes US in PC Shipments

China has reached yet another milestone in its rise as a consumer of technology by becoming the biggest market for personal computers.

Teenagers surround a computer screen at the ChinaJoy Expo, also known as the China Digital Entertainment Expo and Conference, in Shanghai, China.
Bloomberg|Getty Images
Teenagers surround a computer screen at the ChinaJoy Expo, also known as the China Digital Entertainment Expo and Conference, in Shanghai, China.

In the second quarter, manufacturers shipped 18.5 million PCs in China compared with 17.7 million in the United States, according to IDC, a market research firm. It is the first time that shipments in China have exceeded those in the United States.

The shift reflects China’s growing appetite for electronics and the increasing wealth of its huge population. However, it is likely just a temporary phenomenon — at least this year.

The United States is expected to remain the top market for the full year with 73.5 million PC shipments versus 72.4 million in China, IDC said. Shipments in the United States typically rise in the fourth quarter because of the holidays — offsetting a slower pace the rest of the year — while China’s contracts after the traditional summer discounts.

In 2012, however, China is expected to lead the annual ranking.

In any case, the market for PCs in the United States is weak because of the economy and the growing consumer appetite for tablets, which are not included in IDC’s PC shipment estimates. PC shipments in the United States fell 4.2 percent in the second quarter to 17.8 million while shipments in the Asia-Pacific region, including China, grew 13 percent to 30.1 million.

“China’s lead in the PC market is a huge shift that reflects the rising fortunes of emerging markets as well as the relative stagnation of more mature regions,” said Loren Loverde, the program vice president of Worldwide PC Tracker for IDC. “While the immediate economic circumstances in the U.S. and other markets had a significant impact on the timing of China’s move to the lead, they have not changed the trend, but accelerated it.”

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