U.S. PC Shipments Slip in Q1 '08

After retooling its approach, Dell shows signs of life in the race against HP.

A lack of enterprise and consumer spending dragged down U.S. PC shipments in the first quarter of 2008, although the worldwide demand for notebooks and desktops remains strong, according to new reports from Gartner and IDC.

The April 16 reports showed that worldwide PC shipments increased by double digits in the first quarter of 2008 compared with last year, but U.S. shipments were nearly flat, only growing by about 3 percent during the quarter.

Shipments in the United States were hampered by reduced IT enterprise spending, with IT managers delaying hardware purchases until later, and consumers who found themselves with less money to spend on new notebooks and desktops, said Doug Bell, an analyst with IDC.

"If you look at it holistically, the market was pretty good," Bell said. "Even in the United States, you still had positive growth, and on a worldwide basis, our numbers showed an increase of almost 15 percent, which is really positive growth. Right now, there's a lot of focus on the United States because of the economic situation there."

Of the top five PC vendors, Dell had one of the better quarters. Worldwide, Dell shipped nearly 11 million PCs, an increase of 21.6 percent compared with the first quarter of 2007, according to IDC. In the United States, Dell shipped nearly 5 million PCs and ranked No. 1, ahead of Hewlett-Packard.

Dell seems to have reaped the benefits of switching more of its lineup to notebooks-still the hottest part of the market-and its efforts to place PCs on retail shelves both in the United States and throughout the globe, Bell said. This helped increase its sales and it also took some market share away from HP, he said.

"This is Dell's second straight quarter of good growth and it showed the company has rebounded from a few poor quarters," Bell said.

HP remained the No. 1 supplier of PCs worldwide with more than 13 million shipments in the first quarter, an increase of 17.4 percent, according to IDC. Gartner offered similar numbers. In the United States, HP shipped about 3.8 million PCs, which was about the same as in the first quarter of 2007.

Overall, vendors shipped 69.5 million PCs in the quarter, an increase of 14.6 percent compared with 2007, according to IDC. The research firm had originally predicted an increase of 13.2 percent. Garter calculated that 71 million PCs were shipped worldwide in the quarter, an increase of 12.3 percent.

One reason why the overall PC market was strong this quarter was that spending in Europe, the Middle East and Africa increased as those countries took advantage of the weak dollar and the new availability of low-cost notebooks such as the Asus Eee PC, Bell said.

After HP and Dell, Acer ranked third in terms of PC shipments. Worldwide, the Taiwan-based company shipped nearly 7 million PCs in the first quarter, with nearly 1.4 million shipments within the United States. However, Acer's U.S. shipments were down more than 18 percent thanks to a drop in Gateway PC shipments, according to IDC. Acer bought Gateway in 2007.

Apple had yet another good quarter in the consumer market and the company also saw an uptick in the number of Macs that it shipped to business users. The company ranked fourth in the United States with more than 950,000 shipments, an increase of 25 percent, according to IDC. Gartner placed Apple's shipments at more than 1 million.

Lenovo shipped more than 4.8 million PC worldwide in the quarter, an increase of 21 percent. Toshiba shipped more than 3 million PCs during the same period, an increase of 20 percent from 2007, and ranked fifth in both the United States and the worldwide market.