PC shipments up, but Dell loses ground

The PC market continues to grow--but Dell, Lenovo and Apple don't see gains as fast as others in the pack.

Dell could be losing its shine.

PC shipments increased by 13.1 percent in the first quarter, according to research firm Gartner, thanks in part to sales in emerging markets and to consumers. Overall, 57 million PCs, notebooks and servers based on so-called x86 chips were sent to customers. Rival IDC came up with similar results and rankings although the exact numbers are slightly different.

But Dell, the No. 1 PC maker in the world and in the U.S., did not grow that fast. The Round Rock, Texas-based PC maker saw shipments rise worldwide by 10.2 percent from the first quarter of 2005, resulting in a decline in market share from 16.9 percent to 16.5 percent.

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In the U.S., Dell saw shipments rise by only 0.2 percent when the overall market grew by 7.4 percent, dropping its market share from 32 percent to 29.8 percent.

It's a significant change because Dell has grown faster--and generally by a substantial margin--than the PC market as a whole for several years. The company hasn't seen shipments grow this slowly since the third quarter of 2001, when the rest of the industry was contracting.

Gartner's Charles Smulders combed through the data and found that Dell has grown faster than the market on an annual basis since 1989. Dell might have grown faster than the market before that, but Gartner doesn't have the numbers.

"It is a pretty interesting point that they have reached," Smulders said. "They are challenged in delivering to their profitability expectations and with the current consumer pricing environment. It is because they are focused on Intel while other competitors have adopted AMD and been able to hit lower price points."

Dell also has tried to stay out of the low end of the PC market, which helps explain why the average selling price for Dell consumer PCs in the U.S. is far higher than the average price of PCs from competitors. The company also has suffered from an increase in customer complaints.

Rival Hewlett-Packard, meanwhile, is staging a comeback. HP grew shipments by 22.3 percent compared with the same period the year before. As a result, its worldwide market share grew from 13.8 percent in the first quarter of 2005 to 14.9 percent in the first quarter of 2006. In the U.S., HP grew shipments by 15.3 percent and saw its market share rise to 18.5 percent.

Dell has also tried to stay out of the low-end of the PC market, which helps explain why the average selling price for Dell consumer PCs in the U.S. is far higher than the average price of PCs from competitors. Dell has also suffered from an increase in customer complaints.

No. 4 Acer continued to wield the crown for the fastest-growing PC maker. The Taiwanese manufacturer grew PC shipments 45 percent in the first quarter and now has 5 percent of the world market. Lenovo is ranked third, with 6 percent of the market. Lenovo grew shipments by 10 percent.

Gartner further added that, in processors, Advanced Micro Devices gained market share over Intel in the last seven quarters.

Apple Computer so far hasn't been a boon to Intel. Apple, ranked fifth in the U.S. but not in the top five worldwide, saw its U.S. market share decline from 3.6 percent to 3.5 percent. Apple's worldwide share is around 2.3 percent.

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