For the first time, computer maker Lenovo has surpassed technology giant Dell in worldwide PC shipments, leaping into the No. 2 spot behind Hewlett-Packard, according to the latest data from IT analytics firm Gartner. Total worldwide PC shipments rose to 91.8 million units in the third quarter, a 3.2 percent increase from the third quarter of 2010.
HP, the No. 1 vendor based on global PC shipments, grew faster than the industry average, and its market share reached 17.7 percent in the third quarter. Despite announcing in August it was considering spinning off its PC business, HP experienced strong growth in the United States, while outside the United States, growth was relatively weak or average.
The Gartner report noted Lenovo's expansion was boosted in part by the joint venture with NEC in Japan and the company's aggressive marketing to both the professional and consumer PC markets.
Meanwhile, the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region contributed to lower-than-expected growth, led by a weak Western European market.
"The inventory buildup, which slowed growth the last four quarters, mostly cleared out during the third quarter of this year; however, the PC industry has been performing below normal seasonality," Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner, said in a statement. "As expected, back-to-school PC sales were disappointing in mature markets, confirming that the consumer PC market continues to be weak."
Kitagawa said the popularity of non-PC devices, including media tablets like the iPad as well as smartphones, took consumers' spending away from PCs. "As the PC market faced a slowdown, vendor consolidation has become a more apparent trend in the industry," she explained. "Lenovo's recent merger with NEC, and its acquisition of Medion, as well as HP's announcement that it may spin off or sell its PC business, underlined this trend during the quarter."
In the United States, PC shipments totaled 17.8 million units in the third quarter, a 1.1 percent increase from the same period in 2010. The U.S. PC market experienced year-over-year growth for the first time in three quarters. The report noted that while the consumer market continued to be weak with disappointing back-to-school sales in the third quarter, the inventory was kept mostly in check as industry expectations were relatively low. HP showed strong growth in the U.S. PC market, as shipments increased 15.1 percent in the third quarter, and its market share totaled 28.9 percent, while Dell struggled as shipments declined 7.2 percent in the third quarter.
"The main contributor to the weak consumer PC market in the United States was intensified competition for consumers' money," Kitagawa said. "Media tablets and smartphones took center stage in the U.S. retail sector, and the expectation is for continuing demand for these devices throughout the holiday season. Dell's issue has been balancing profitability and market share gain, a difficult task in a PC industry where high volumes and low margins are the norm."
Gartner's early study shows that Apple experienced the strongest growth among the top five vendors in the U.S. PC market. Apple's PC shipments increased 21.5 percent in the third quarter. The robust growth of the MacBook Air continued to lead Apple's overall growth in the U.S. market.