HP Still Leads PC Markets But Lower Ranks Less Clear

Michelle Maisto covers mobile devices, Android and Apple for eWEEK and is also a food writer.

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Gartner and IDC agreed HP led sluggish Q4 2010 PC sales but disagreed on Acer and Dell rankings

Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Acer and Toshiba dominated worldwide PC shipments during last year’s fourth quarter, according to reports from IDC and Gartner.

While both research firms reported that sales were sluggish during the quarter, rising approximately three percent from the same quarter a year ago, they differed in how they ranked the top five vendors.

European Markets Still Depressed

Although HP’s fourth-quarter unit shipment growth was below the worldwide average and down 1.2 percent from a year ago (by Gartner’s estimate), the company was again the undisputed world leader.

However, Gartner ranked Acer in second place worldwide, with shipments of 11.9 million units, down from 12.1 million a year earlier. Dell followed with shipments of 10.8 million units, up from 10.4 million.

In contrast, IDC gave the runner-up slot to Dell, finding it had shipped 11.1 million units during the quarter, to Acer’s 9.8 million.

Both firms gave the fourth-place worldwide ranking to Lenovo, followed by Toshiba

Both analyst firms also agreed that the EMEA market is suffering soft quarters, constrained by high inventory levels particularly in the retail channel. According to Gartner, PC shipments in EMEA totalled 32 million in the fourth quarter of 2010, a 6.2 percent increase from the fourth quarter of 2009.

Gartner’s Mikako Kitagawa wrote: “In a weak economic environment, already-restrained consumer wallets shifted away from PCs to other consumer electronic devices including media tablets, gaming machines and e-readers.

In the business market, vendors saw some success during the quarter from corporate refreshes but, in Europe, PC pricing remained an issue as increased Euro/Dollar exchange rates limited any price reductions, resulting in limited year end uplift.

“Media tablets undoubtedly intensified the competition in the consumer market,” wrote Kitagawa. “These devices do not replace primary PCs, but they are viewed as good enough devices for those who want to have a second and third connected device for content-consumption usage. Mini-notebook shipments were hit the most by the success of media tablets.”

IDC analyst Jay Chou added, “Consumer fatigue is playing an important role in many markets as the mini-notebook surge wanes, and consumers watch their spending and evaluate other products.”

Such products include the Apple iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab, as well as the wealth of tablet competitors aggressively working to chip away at Apple’s enormous market share.

In 2011, the competition for consumer dollars “is likely to persist … if not get worse, as a wave of media tablets could put a dent on the traditional PC market,” IDC research director David Daoud said in the firm’s report.

IDC estimates that worldwide PC shipments in 2010 rose to 346 million units, up nearly 14 percent from 2009 totals, while Gartner put the figure at a slightly more optimistic 350.9 million units.

The two firms disagreed again on how to shuffle the top five. IDC found Dell in second place, with shipments of 43.4 million units, compared with Acer’s 42.4 million. Meanwhile, Gartner put Acer there, with shipments of 45.2 million units, in contrast to Dell’s 42.1 million.

The agreed-upon, notable standout for the year, however, was fourth-placing Lenovo, which by both estimates posted annual revenue growth of 37.3 percent.

“Lenovo’s shipment growth well exceeded the worldwide average,” stated the Gartner report. “Lenovo’s growth was driven by strong professional growth, as well as expansion into the consumer space outside of China.”