The latest quarterly shipment figures from the leading PC industry research companies show that the "obvious" didn't happen. It seemed likely that risk-averse corporate buyers would respond to HP's announcement that it might sell or spin off its PC business by switching to its main rival, Dell. If that is happening, it's not yet evident, because both Gartner and IDC reckon HP's shipments increased in the July-September quarter, while Dell's declined slightly.
The most striking change in the quarter was the growth in shipments of Lenovo PCs. The Chinese company, which took over IBM's PC business, also acquired Medion and partnered with NEC. This helped it grow its shipments by 25.2% (Gartner) or 36.1% (IDC) to take second place in the PC market, ahead of Dell.
Asus also did well. It would have been easy to assume a decline in shipments for a company best known for selling netbooks. However, strong sales in Asia meant global shipments grew by 18.5 percent to 5.7 million units.
The global Top 5 now comprises HP, Lenovo, Dell, Acer, and Asus, with the two last-named companies being based in Taiwan. It's decades since IBM and Apple dominated PC sales, but once-powerful American companies such as Compaq, Gateway, Packard-Bell, eMachines and Texas Instruments now exist only as brand names, if at all. Three of the Top 5 PC companies are now Asian, and Taiwanese contractors make almost all the laptops sold by HP, Dell and Apple as well.
According to Gartner, worldwide PC shipments climbed by 3.2 percent to 91.8 million units in the third quarter -- roughly a million units per day. HP, the market leader, shipped 16.2 million PCs for a market share of 17.7 percent. In the US, HP's shipments increased by 15.1 percent to 5.1 million units, giving it a US market share of 28.9 percent.
Apple also grew strongly in the US, and picked up another couple of points of market share. According to Gartner, Apple shipments increased by 21.5 percent to 2.3 million units. With 12.9 percent of the US market, Apple is now firmly established in third place behind HP and Dell (21.9 percent), with Toshiba (8.4 percent) and Acer (7.8 percent) completing the Top 5.
US PC shipments only grew by a scant 1.1 percent to 17.8 million units, but the market had been in decline.
In the EMEA market, dominated by western European countries, Gartner reckons HP increased its shipments by 2.0 percent to 5.4 million units, giving it a market share of 20.1 percent. Asus (shipments up 13.3 percent) overtook Dell (shipments down 2.4 percent). The EMEA Top 5 was therefore HP, Acer, Asus, Dell and Lenovo.
EMEA PC shipments fell by 2.9 percent to 26.6 million units: the third consecutive quarterly decline. Gartner research director Ranjit Atwal said: "Most of the decline resulted from the continued poor performance of Acer, which declined more than 30 percent. The prolonged inventory clearance will have a permanent impact on Acer, as its direct competitors are securing new channel and retailer partners."
Gartner says PC shipments in Asia/Pacific grew by 6 percent to 31.8 million units in the third quarter. Shipments grew by 19.6 percent Latin America, and by 3 percent in Japan.
Mikako Kitagawa, Gartner principal analyst, said: "As expected, back-to-school PC sales were disappointing in mature markets, confirming that the consumer PC market continues to be weak. The popularity of non-PC devices, including media tablets, such as the iPad and smartphones, took consumers' spending away from PCs."
Loren Loverde, IDC vice president of Worldwide Consumer Device Trackers, said: "Although we don't see media tablets and other devices replacing PCs, questions on how products will evolve, and consumer interest in these and other categories are providing a distraction. And while price remains critical, many users are delaying PC purchases for the moment. Still, there are opportunities, as demonstrated by Lenovo's gains, and we expect PCs to find stronger demand in the coming years."
For more details, see Gartner Says Worldwide PC Shipments Grew 3.2 Percent in Third Quarter of 2011 and Worldwide PC Market Grapples with Slow Growth in Second Quarter as Lenovo Rises to Number 2 Position, According to IDC.