Small and midsize businesses (SMBs) took delivery of 120.1 million PCs worldwide in 2010, a 10.4% increase from the previous year, according to research firm Techaisle.
Much of that growth was driven by emerging markets, where PC purchases by smaller firms increased at a 16.5% clip. Mature markets, including the U.S., grew at a slower overall rate of 4.4%. Techaisle attributed that largely to continued economic uncertainty and lack of hiring in the U.S. and similar regions. Total units purchased by SMBs in emerging markets surpassed that of mature markets last year for the first time ever, according to the report.
The desktop remains king -- for now, at least -- among SMBs, accounting for more than half of all PCs shipped last year, or 61.3 million units. Manufacturers such as HP and Dell unveiled new desktop models geared for the SMB segment at the beginning of 2011.
Smaller companies bought 54.3 million notebooks, representing 45% of total sales. Techaisle projected that notebooks will outsell desktops in the SMB market in 2011. Netbooks pulled up in a distant third place, with 4.5 million shipped.
Techaisle did not include tablets such as Apple's iPad in its report. A recent Goldman Sachs analysis projected tablets will eventually replace one in three PCs in the broader market.
The Asia/Pacific region was tops in terms of SMB market share, accounting for 32% of PCs purchased last year. The region also showed the highest rate of growth, with a 17.6% increase in sales compared with 2009. Middle East & Africa, one of the smallest regions in terms of share, saw significant year-over-year growth at 15.2%, as did Eastern Europe (13.7%) and Latin America (12.2%).
Western Europe (20%) and North America (19.1%) ranked second and third in terms of SMB market share, though both experienced relatively modest growth at 3.3% and 4.8% respectively.
The report also noted a shift in buying habits in mature markets, with more SMBs purchasing retail or online instead of going through VAR or reseller channels than in the past. Nearly one in three PCs purchased last year by smaller businesses in the U.S., for example, came from retail stores.
Techaisle defined the SMB segment as businesses with 1,000 or fewer employees.
Though IT spending overall appears likely to increase in 2011 -- which could foster stronger PC sales growth in the U.S. and other markets -- a key data point in Techaisle's 2010 report signaled that emerging countries are likely to continuing driving global sales this year and beyond. PC penetration among the SMB market -- or the number of small companies using at least one PC as a percentage of all SMBs -- is just 39% in emerging markets, compared with 59% in mature regions. Techaisle predicted that emerging market penetration will cross the 50% mark in 2014 -- the same year it projects those markets will move 100 million total units for the first time.