Lenovo could be on the verge of toppling Dell as the second-largest global PC brand, according to a new research note from IHS. That would place the Chinese manufacturer behind Hewlett-Packard, which continues to reign as the world's largest despite some well-publicized recent troubles.
According to the firm, Lenovo's global PC shipments rose 14.5 percent to 12.5 million units in the third quarter of 2011. Meanwhile, Dell racked up 11.2 million shipments, a slight rise from the 11.1 million in the previous quarter. HP held the top spot with 16.2 million, a 5.9 percent rise from 15.3 million the previous quarter.
Earlier this year, HP briefly considered spinning off its PC-manufacturing division, until newly minted CEO Meg Whitman chose to keep the unit in-house. However, the company did shut down its nascent webOS tablet and smartphone efforts, and will make a decision in the coming weeks about the fate of the webOS operating system-once intended for desktops and laptops in addition to mobile devices, but now something of an orphan after the collapse of HP's tablet initiative.
Acer and Asus rounded out the top five with 9.4 million and 5.9 million in shipments, respectively.
"Lenovo continues to capitalize on strong demand for PCs in its home market of China," Matthew Wilkens, principal analyst for compute platforms research for IHS, wrote in a Nov. 30 research note. "While PC sales in the United States, Europe and many other regions are suffering because of weak economic conditions and rising competition from media tablets, desktop and notebook sales remain red hot in China."
That Chinese growth allows Lenovo to outpace rivals who focus more on the U.S. market, he added, "putting it in position to contend with HP for market leadership."
Overall, global PC shipments rose to 90.4 million units for the quarter, up significantly from the 85.6 million shipped the previous quarter. "The attainment of any growth at all represents a victory for the market," Wilkens added. "This increase in sales comes at a time of weak consumer sales and a strong challenge from alternative platforms-specifically the media tablets."
Although Apple has benefitted immensely from the blockbuster iPad, which effectively kicked off the recent renaissance in consumer tablets-rivals have struggled to develop a tablet capable of achieving similar sales numbers. That hasn't stopped them from flooding the market with "iPad killers," though. In the coming quarters, Microsoft plans to introduce Windows 8, the next version of its popular operating system, on tablets in addition to traditional PCs.