The big got bigger and the rich got richer in the third quarter.
Compaq surged ahead of the pack, while Dell and Hewlett Packard each increased their market share by two points or more compared to the same quarter the year before. Unit shipments for this group climbed between 50 and 70 percent.
These gains, fueled by lower prices across a wide array of systems, far outstripped increases in U.S. and worldwide sales and came primarily at the expense of smaller, second-tier vendors, who have been shrinking all year.
Compaq increased its market share from 13.5 percent to 18.8 percent in the U.S and from 10.8 percent to 14.2 percent worldwide, according to IDC.
Unit sales for Compaq meanwhile increased 67 percent in the U.S. and 52 percent worldwide, said IDC. It was a "bang-up quarter" for Compaq, according to an IDC report.
Dataquest reported that Compaq grew its market share from 14.4 to 19.1 percent in the U.S. and 10.2 to 13.7 percent worldwide. In terms of unit growth, Compaq surged 63 percent and 56 percent, respectively, in the U.S. and international markets.
"Compaq had a stupendous quarter," said Kevin Hause, senior analyst at IDC. "They definitely widened their lead in the market."
Aggressive pricing, especially from Compaq and HP, largely contributed to the gains reported by the big name players, he added. Pricing pressure will not likely ease up, meaning that life for second-tier vendors will get more difficult.
"Prices are much lower in general. Last year, there were a lot of systems over $2,500. Now, there are very few," said Hause. "The people who are having a difficult time are the ASTs and the Digitals."
Bill Schaub, a Dataquest analyst, pointed out that one in five PCs sold in the U.S. came from Compaq. Dataquest called this consolidation toward leading names unprecedented.
Dell and HP showed similar results. Dell, the No. 2 U.S. vendor and No. 3 worldwide, saw its market share climb from 7.1 percent to 9.7 percent in the U.S and 4.7 to 6.2 percent worldwide, according to IDC.
According to Dataquest, Dell grew from 7.2 to 10.3 percent in the U.S., and 4.3 to 6.0 percent worldwide. Dell's unit growth shot up 74.3 percent in the U.S. and 60.4 percent worldwide, said Dataquest.
HP, No. 5 in the U.S. and 4 worldwide, went from 5 percent to 7.1 percent in the U.S. and from 4.1 to 5.8 percent, said IDC. Unit growth surged 70 percent in the U.S. and 62 percent worldwide.
Packard Bell's share shrunk by 7.4 percent in the U.S. and 7.6 percent worldwide, according to Dataquest.
IBM saw its market share grow 6 percent in the U.S. and 10 percent worldwide, said IDG. Those are gains for sure, but less than market's growth rates of 20 percent in the U.S. and 16 percent worldwide, according to IDC.
"The big issue for IBM was the consumer market. They really missed the boat on low-priced PCs," said Hause. IBM's corporate business, he said, actually grew.
The U.S. experienced the most growth of any geographic region, noted Hause. Europe reported gains in sales as did the Asia/Pacific region. Japan was the only major region where sales shrunk, he said. Sales there declined 12 percent from the year before.