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Acer comes back down to earth, Dell rises

Fastest-growing PC company of the last few years stumbles during the second quarter. Observers say it has to do with Acer's reliance on notebook sales as desktops gain.

Desktops helped Dell regain its former place as the No. 2 PC maker--behind HP, but ahead of Acer. CNET

After vaulting over Dell to take the No. 2 spot among the top sellers of PCs last year, Acer now finds itself back in third place.

According to data compiled by iSuppli and released Thursday, Acer shipped 10.2 million PCs during the second quarter of 2010, while Dell shipped 10.5 million during the same time period. Those numbers show that Acer shipped 6.2 percent fewer computers during the second quarter than the first, and Dell shipped 1.2 percent fewer. But it means that Dell gets its old No. 2 spot back, which it relinquished in October of last year.

Acer has been the fastest-growing PC maker in the last two years, at some points outgrowing the PC market by two or three times. So when the PC market grows 1.1 percent on shipments of 82.5 million PCs from the first to second quarters of 2010, and Acer declines 6.2 percent, it raises some eyebrows.

iSuppli analyst Matthew Wilkins thinks it has more to do with Acer's reliance on notebook sales than any particular improvement Dell made during the most recent quarter.

"With its product line heavily focused on mobile PCs, Acer's sequential decline in notebook shipments impacted its position at the total PC level more than its competitors, which were able to draw on the upswing in desktop shipments to bolster their total shipments," said Wilkins said in the report.

Translation: Desktops have helped drive PC market growth this year as enterprise customers have slowly but steadilybegun making the long-awaited "refresh" purchases of new PCs with Windows 7. And PC makers like Dell and HP are in a much better position to take advantage of that since they have corporate accounts that regularly buy computers from them in large quantities, and still buy desktops.

Acer, on the other hand, found success in the U.S. and European markets recently by shipping inexpensive laptop computers to consumers, with far less emphasis on desktops.

With the exception of Acer and Dell, the rest of the top 5 rankings remained unchanged, according to iSuppli: HP leads with 14.95 million PCs shipped during the second quarter of 2010, followed by Dell's 10.54 million, Acer's 10.19 million, Lenovo's 8.32 million, and Toshiba's 4.45 million.