SAN FRANCISCO—China was the world's biggest PC market in 2012, the first time it top the U.S. for the top spot in any year, according to market research firm IHS.
PC shipmen to China totaled some 69 million units in 2012, 3 million more than the 66 million units that shipped to the U.S., according to an IHS report on the PC market. China's PC market is expected to grow moderately this year, according to the firm.
Beyond its massive size and population, China’s PC market exhibits distinct characteristics that set it apart from the computer trade elsewhere, according to IHS, which cited China's a vast untapped rural market and unique consumer-purchasing patterns. While desktop PC shipments lagged notebooks around the world, the two PC segments were on par in China in 2012, with an even 50-50 split, according to IHS.
“The equal share of shipments for desktops and notebooks in China is unusual, since consumers in most regions today tend to prefer more agile mobile PCs, rather than the bulky, stationary desktops,” said Peter Lin, senior analyst for compute platforms at IHS, in a statement.
Lin said the relatively large percentage of desktop PC shipments in China is due to huge demand in the country’s rural areas, which account for a major segment of the country’s 1.34 billion citizens. "These consumers tend to prefer the desktop form factor," Lin said.
But IHS expects China's PC market to change gradually as desktop PCs face rising competition from the high value proposition presented by notebooks. Notebooks will surpass desktops in China by 2014, tracking more closely with the worldwide desktop-to-notebook PC ratio of 36 to 64 percent, according to IHS.
China has previously surpassed the U.S. in PC consumption in specific quarters. In the second quarter of 2011, International Data Corp. reported that China's PC market surpassed the U.S.