Hewlett-Packard defended its position atop the global PC market during the fourth quarter, which disappointed but didn't surprise, according to research firm IDC.
Nearly 90 million PCs shipped during the holiday quarter, IDC reported. The figure represented a 6.4 percent drop from shipments a year earlier and was worse than the 4.4 percent decline IDC expected.
The firm added that the lackluster results "were not entirely surprising." The PC market has struggled to retain the interest of consumers, which has been diverted by tablets and smartphones. Commercial spending was also slowed, said IDC, by consumer questions about how the use of touch varies between tablets and Windows 8 PCs.
"Lost in the shuffle to promote a touch-centric PC, vendors have not forcefully stressed other features that promote a more secure, reliable and efficient user experience," IDC Senior Research Analyst Jay Chou said in a statement. "As Windows 8 matures, and other corresponding variables such as Ultrabook pricing continue to drop, hopefully, the PC market can see a reset in both messaging and demand in 2013."
The quarter also represented the first time in more than five years that the PC market declined year-on-year during the holiday season.
"Consumers expected all sorts of cool PCs with tablet and touch capabilities. Instead, they mostly saw traditional PCs that feature a new OS [Windows 8] optimized for touch and tablet with applications and hardware that are not yet able to fully utilize these capabilities," IDC Research Director David Daoud said.
Despite overall weak sales, HP, Lenovo, Asus and Samsung were among the popular brands that were able to take advantage of the limited consumer interest in Windows 8 and "push to build up their presence ahead of 2013," said Daoud.
HP has long held the title as the world’s top PC maker, though the gap between it and Lenovo has shrunk in recent quarters. IDC analysts in the third quarter of 2012 reported that the ailing HP had kept fast-growing Lenovo at bay, though research firm Gartner said its data found Lenovo to have pulled ahead during that time frame. Gartner has yet to share its fourth-quarter 2012 findings.
HP shipped 15 million units during the quarter, boosting its market share nearly a percentage point, to 16.7 percent, but posting a negative 0.6 percent growth rate year-over-year.
Second-place-finisher Lenovo, by IDC's count, shipped 14.1 million PCs for a 15.7 percent share of the market and 8.2 percent year-on-year growth.
Third- and fourth-place finishers Dell and Acer took considerable hits, with Dell posting a loss of more than 20 percent and Acer nearing a negative 30 percent growth rate. Dell shipped 9.5 million units, Acer 7 million units and fifth-place Asus, with a respectable 5.6 percent growth rate, shipped 6.5 million PCs.
IDC noted that Asus' growth came, thanks to consumer sales and strong business in a number of regions. "The firm racked up strong gains across many regions," wrote IDC, "where its often innovative yet price-conscious offerings still managed to take root in spite of an increasingly tough landscape."
The analysts added that Lenovo's performance, while positive, was well below its stellar growth rates of previous quarters, and that HP, with its nearly flat sales, nonetheless performed better than the overall market, which for the full year 2012 declined 3.2 percent.