HP Remains Top PC Maker as Market Sinks in Q4

While Hewlett-Packard remained the world's top PC maker, shipments of desktops and notebooks sank in the fourth quarter of 2008, especially in the United States, say Gartner and IDC. While businesses stopped buying new PCs earlier in 2008, consumers also delayed purchases of new laptops, which helped bring the market down in the last three months of 2008. While HP, Apple and Acer continued to thrive, Dell watched its shipments slip both in the United States and overseas, according to surveys from the analyst companies.

Hewlett-Packard continues to reign as the world's top supplier of desktops and notebooks, but the global market for PCs sank in the last few months of 2008, due to the U.S. recession and its impact on the worldwide economy, according to new surveys by IDC and Gartner.

Although the fourth quarter showed that the economy was having a significant impact on the PC market, especially in the United States, shipments of desktops and laptops did increase overall in 2008 compared with 2007. For the year, worldwide PC shipments increased more than 10 percent and topped 297 million units, according to research company IDC.

In the United States, PC shipments increased a little more than 2 percent during 2008 and topped 68 million units for the year, according to IDC's Jan. 14 report. IDC did find that U.S. PC shipments decreased 3.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008, while Gartner estimated that shipments decreased 10 percent from a year ago.

HP remained the top PC producer in the fourth quarter and in 2008. Acer and Toshiba also had good years both in the United States and worldwide. In the fourth quarter, Dell watched its shipments slip in the United States and overseas, but the company did increase its overall PC shipments during the year.

While enterprises and small and midsize businesses stopped buying new PCs in early 2008, consumers cut back their own spending later in the year, which accounted for a drop-off in shipments during the fourth quarter.

Mininotebooks or "netbooks" grew in popularity in 2008, and the presence of these inexpensive and very portable laptops helped the market in the fourth quarter. In total, mininotebook shipments hit 10 million units in 2008 and that number is expected to double in 2009, according to IDC.

On the main reason for Acer's success in 2008 was the popularity of its Aspire mininotebooks.

"In the fourth quarter, if you had to pick a bright spot, the surge of mininotebooks in the PC [market] has helped drive growth," said Doug Bell, an analyst with IDC. "The Catch-22 is that these are inexpensive machines and that means total revenue is down. As far as volume goes, it helped a very tough fourth quarter ... It is something to keep an eye on in the next year. These laptops helped a hurting industry."

In the fourth quarter, HP's worldwide PC shipments topped 15 million units, an increase of 3 percent from the fourth quarter of 2007. Dell watched its worldwide shipments drop 6 percent for a total of 10.6 million, according to IDC. Acer's fourth-quarter shipments increased an impressive 25 percent for a total of more than 9 million units.

Lenovo with 5.5 million units and Toshiba with 3.6 million units rounded out the top five, according to IDC's estimates.

In the United States, Dell ranked as the No. 1 PC vendor in the fourth quarter of 2008, but the company saw its total shipments fall 16 percent for a total of 4.6 million. HP's U.S. PC shipments also dropped 3 percent for a total of 4.3 million units.

Acer posted a 35 percent shipment increase during the quarter for a total of 2 million PCs. Apple's shipments increased 7.5 percent for a total of 1.2 million and Toshiba's increased nearly 10 percent for a total of 985,000 units, according to IDC.

Gartner's calculations told a similar story. Worldwide, HP held the top spot with 14.9 million units shipped in the fourth quarter, while Dell held on to second place with 10.3 million units shipped.

In the United States, both HP and Dell watched their shipments fall in the fourth quarter. Dell's total shipments dropped to 4.4 million, while HP's fell to 4.2 million, according to Gartner.

For 2008, HP increased its worldwide PC shipments 12.7 percent compared with 2007 for a total of nearly 57 million desktops and notebooks. Dell placed second with 44 million units shipped, an increase of 11 percent.

Acer increased its yearly PC shipments by 53 percent in 2008, and the Taiwanese company shipped 32.5 million PCs during the year. Lenovo increased its shipments 8 percent for a total of 22 million units. Finally, Toshiba increased its worldwide PC shipments 25 percent for a total of 13.7 million units, according to IDC.