Consumers are forsaking Apple and its pricey luxury laptops, like the MacBook Air seen here, and opting instead for cheaper netbooks. As a result Apple saw its sales growth drop, while Acer saw its sales explode.  (Source: Apple)

Acer Aspire One
Apple braces for more bad news with the latest market research releases

Whether you love Apple, hate it, or just see it as another company, it’s hard to deny that the company has had a rough couple weeks.  In what was supposed to be Apple's dramatic last bow from Macworld, it failed to deliver any product that excited the audience much, only announcing a few minor releases and changes to its iTunes pricing.  To make matters worse its CEO and guiding hand, Steve Jobs, took a sick leave and will be out until the end of June.

Now market research firm Gartner has released metrics on PC sales in Q4 2008, and the numbers aren't in Apple's favor according to AppleInsider.  In Q3 2008 Apple had seen growth of 29.4 percent and had shipped a reported 1.645 million units.  This fell in Q4 2008 to a mere 8.3 percent growth, shipping 1.225 million Macs.  Apple gained a point of market share over the course of the year, and did ship 96,000 more systems that in Q4 2007.  However, the numbers paint the picture that Apple's growth is slowing, which puts a damper on any gains.

Acer, fueled by its surprise sales hit the Aspire One netbook, grew an incredible 55.4 percent in Q4 2008 to reclaim its number three spot and take a commanding lead over Apple.  It shipped 2.374 million units in the quarter.  Acer's market share of 15.2 percent is approaching HP and Dell's after being at only 8.8 percent last year.

Toshiba made modest gains, growing 12 percent to be only the third of three top tier PC manufacturers to show growth.  HP and Dell both posted losses in growth, but Dell posted the bigger one, with growth down 16.4 percent, cutting its lead over competitor HP.  HP took a smaller 3.4 percent fall, shipping 4.288 million units to Dell's 4.466 million units.

The PC market as a whole, according to Gartner, is in its biggest slump since 2002.  It posted sales of 78.1 million units for the quarter, an anemic 1.1 percent yearly quarter to quarter growth, and the lowest since 2002.  Analyst Mika Kitagawa comments, "The United States experienced steeper than expected shipment declines due to the recession. The Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region was also affected by the economic slow down across key countries.  Asia/Pacific recorded the worst shipment growth since Gartner started its PC statistics research. Latin America met expectations, but its growth was much lower than in the past."

In the world market, HP furthered its lead, mustering a 3.5 percent growth, while second place Dell saw sales fall 5.9 percent.  Acer took a commanding third worldwide with 31.1 percent growth, while Toshiba also showed strong growth of 20.7 percent.  Fourth place Lenovo fell slightly, by 4.5 percent.  Apple again failed to crack the top five.

Over the year 302.2 million units were shipped worldwide, a slightly better 10.9 percent increase from 2007.  However, growth slowed the most towards the end of the year, a bad omen for next year’s sales.

"We basically took a look at this situation and said, this is bullshit." -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng's take on patent troll Soverain
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