Smartphones Converge Across the European Market, PCs Do Not

24 Jul

Smartphones Converge Across the European Market, PCs Do Not


Simon Baker
Program Director
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Nikolina Jurisic
Program Manager
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Smartphones are becoming increasingly popular everywhere across Europe, and the markets of the East are converging with the West.

Compare in the chart shown here, which breaks the continent down into four subregions, Nordic Europe;  the ‘heart of the continent’, grouped around France, Germany and the UK; Southern Europe; Central Europe; and Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan. There is an unmistakable convergence: smartphone volumes in the more advanced countries are dipping, as consumers tend to keep their devices longer, and are spending more on them too.

Thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the transition in communications is basically over In Central Europe. The smartphone market is now largely mature, with ownership and usage levels close to those in Western Europe. Further East, Russia, the region’s biggest market, has recovered after the 2014 ruble crisis and levels of smartphone ownership are also closing in on those in Western Europe.

Within a couple of years, if the trends do not change, the ratios of sales against population across these subregions will be almost the same, with the exception probably of the Nordic grouping, which will remain slightly higher in volumes per capita.

Smartphone Purchases Converge, PC Shipments Do Not

As European smartphone markets converge, PC markets, however, remain resolutely different across the continent, with widely different sales ratios.

Look at the second chart here. Nordic Europe remains way ahead of the other subregions, with the France/Germany/UK/Others group, not far behind.

Much lower down is Southern Europe, along with Central and Eastern Europe and Russia/Ukraine/Kazakhstan.

Moreover, the subregions are diverging not getting closer.

If we take the number of PCs sold every year in Southern Europe – Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Greece, compared with the population, as the chart shows, the relationship is now almost identical with the line for Central Europe, as is the trend over time. Sales are slightly lower per capita in Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan, but they are rising slowly to also merge with Central Europe and Southern Europe.

Compare these two subregions with PC sales in the Nordic countries, which not only are nearly four times as high but are increasing in relation to population.

There is no sign of convergence.

If anything, the opposite. In Central and Eastern Europe PC sales have been fading despite these countries’ strong recent economic performance. The same is true in Russia. A few years ago, there was a boom in consumer laptops in Russia, with the wider provision of WiFi for instance in cafes making them more popular among younger people, but this has not been sustained.

More PCs Than People in Denmark

The highest concentration of PCs across Europe as a whole is in Denmark, where, in terms of the installed base rather than sales, there are as many PCs as people and more PCs than smartphones, which is a standout result in Europe.

On the PC front, the other Nordic countries are not far behind. Looking again at the installed base rather than sales (not illustrated in the charts here), the northern part of the continent — the U.K., Germany, France, and the Netherlands — shows pronounced levels of reliance on the PC, of around one PC for every one and a half residents.

In Southern Europe, the number of PCs is about half this, one for every three or so residents, but the number of smartphones per capita is similar to that in Nordic Europe.

In both these comparisons, we have taken total markets. With smartphones, nearly all are used as consumer devices, while in the PC world a lot of sales are to businesses and the devices have very different usage patterns.

If we focus just on the purchase of PCs by businesses, the differences are even starker. Nordic Europe buys four times as many PCs per head of population than does southern Europe and Central Europe (the figures are again similar between these two groupings). With Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan, the difference is more than 10 times as great. Moreover, this gap is widening — there is a slow increase in business PC purchases in the Nordic world, whereas in the other four subregions delineated here those purchases are falling.

The average lifespan of a PC has lengthened in the less affluent East and South of Europe in the past couple of years, and IDC believes that PCs are replaced more frequently in the richer North. Nevertheless, there will be a significant gap in computer usage between these different parts of Europe.

This gap has clear implications both for multimedia consumption and for the future of work.

In Southern and Central and Eastern Europe the computer experience is more and more a mobile one, while it currently looks as if northern Europe will remain more “traditional” both at work and at home, in higher levels of PC use.

The new dividing line across Europe in use of computing devices is North versus South and East, rather than just West versus East.

Nordic Europe: Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland

Southern Europe: Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece

Central Europe: Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia

Other Western Europe: Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom.

If you want to learn more about this topic or have any questions, please contact Simon Baker or Nikolina Jurisic, or head over to https://uk.idc.com and drop your details in the form on the top right.

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