HP Dominated Q4, but Ranks of Acer, Dell, Toshiba Disputed

Gartner and IDC agreed in Jan. 12 reports that fourth-quarter 2010 PC sales were sluggish. On how Acer, Dell and Toshiba ranked, however, they disagree.

Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Acer and Toshiba dominated worldwide PC shipments during last year's fourth quarter, according to Jan. 12 reports from IDC and Gartner. While both research firms reported that sales were sluggish during the quarter, rising approximately 3 percent from the same quarter a year ago, they differed in how they ranked the Top 5 vendors.

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. It was also the first-place finisher in the United States, with unit shipments of 5.7 million by IDC's count and 5.6 million by Gartner's.

However, Gartner ranked Acer No. 2 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 second place to Dell, finding it to have 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, though they differed again in their rankings for overall U.S. sales. While both research firms placed HP and Dell in the No. 1 and No. 2 U.S. spots, respectively, Gartner reported that Acer placed third, while IDC gave that ranking to Toshiba, pushing Acer to fourth place.

By both accounts, Apple and Toshiba were the only vendors in the Top 5 to increase their U.S. shipments during the quarter.

Vendors saw some success during the quarter from corporate refreshes. However, consumer PC purchasing was down, as consumers are "spending less than they used to," stated IDC. In addition, the vendors had to compete with tablet PC suppliers for those dollars.

"Media tablets undoubtedly intensified the competition in the consumer market," wrote Gartner's Mikako 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 5. IDC found Dell in the No. 2 spot, with shipments of 43.4 million units, compared with Acer's 42.4 million. Meanwhile, Gartner put Acer in second place, 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."