A troubled economy in Korea slowed the overall growth of the PC market in the Asia-Pacific region, excluding Japan, during the first quarter of 1997 and allowed China to become the region's biggest PC consumer during that time period, according to market research from International Data (IDC).
As the Korean market shrank, IBM - in cooperation with its Korean partner, LG Electronics - increased shipments and threatened the dominance of Seoul-based Samsung Electronics IDC said last week.
For the region excluding the large and mature Japanese market, PC shipments during the first quarter rose to 2.34 million units, up 14% from the same period a year earlier. That pace, while healthy, is far from the 26% growth rate for all of 1996, largely because of an economic downturn in Korea, IDC said, adding that Korea accounts for one-fifth of the region's PC shipments.
The Korean market receded by 3% to just over 495,000 units for the first quarter of 1997, down from almost 511,000 units in the year-earlier period. The third-ranked Australian market, meanwhile, grew by only 1 percent to just under 339,000 units.
"The big story for the region is that the growth rate was brought down by Korea and Australia," said Dane Anderson, an analyst at IDC Asia-Pacific in Singapore. "Growth everywhere else was very strong."
The closely watched China market saw shipments of almost 554,000 units during the quarter, a 25% rise from 443,000 units a year earlier. The fastest growing markets were in Southeast Asia, led by Malaysia, up 46% , and Singapore, up 42%.
Samsung held on to its number one ranking, but just barely, shipping nearly 176,000 units in the quarter, an increase of 23% from 143,000 units in the year-earlier period. Samsung sells its PCs almost exclusively in its home market of Korea.
IBM jumped past Compaq Computer and Acer into second place with a growth spurt of 97% to just over 172,000 units. IBM shipped some 87,000 units in the year-earlier period, before it entered into its alliance with LG Electronics.
Dell Computer saw the fastest growth rate of the major vendors at 108% to end up in 13th place in the region. "They're doing very well, very quickly," said Anderson. The question for Dell, he added, is whether it can make a successful transition from the channel model it is using in China, India and Indonesia to the direct model it employs elsewhere.
In China, Beijing-based Legend Group took the number one spot by shipping more than 45,000 units, up almost two-thirds from approximately 27,000 units a year earlier. "They're really responding to a niche at the low end for the most part with their focus on price," Anderson said.
Hewlett-Packard held on to second place in China with a similar year-on-year growth rate, shipping just over 39,000 units in the first quarter of 1997. Compaq tumbled by 9%, while AST Research fell 15%.
Prospects for the remainder of the year look positive, with the strongest growth continuing to be in China and Southeast Asia.