HolidayBuyer's Guide

First-quarter PC shipments rise

Unit shipments exceed expectations slightly, but tougher times lie ahead, analysts say.

So-called emerging markets helped push the global PC market to double-digit unit shipment increases during the first quarter.

Total worldwide shipments rose 10.9 percent from the same quarter a year ago to reach 46.1 million during the first quarter, IDC said in a statement Friday.

The research firm said that continued growth in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, as well as in notebook PC shipments, drove the increase, which was about 1 percent higher than IDC's forecast for the quarter. Those regions saw unit shipments rise 15 percent from the same quarter a year ago. The U.S. PC market met IDC's forecast, with growth particularly strong for laptops and in the small- and medium-business sector, IDC said.

Despite the rather upbeat quarterly results, IDC continued to express caution about the second half of the year. The research firm, as well as market research rival Gartner, has said that growth will slow toward the end of this year, resulting in shipment increases of less than 10 percent. Ensuing years could be even tougher, Gartner has said, leading to more intense competition in the market, which has already seen Hewlett-Packard buy Compaq; IBM announce plans to sell its PC business to Lenovo Group, China's top PC company; and Gateway acquire eMachines.

Dell still king of the hill
"It's caution in the sense that we're coming off of higher growth last year and we need to see continued (business) spending" on PCs, said Loren Loverde, director of IDC's Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker. "So far this quarter is a pretty good sign of that, but the market is maturing and we have forecast slower growth. I would approach (the future) in a measured fashion. I wouldn't be overly optimist or overly conservative."

Dell remained the worldwide PC market's king of the hill during the first quarter. The Round Rock, Texas, PC maker shipped just over 8.7 million PCs, the most in the world, giving it almost 19 percent market share. HP continued in second place, shipping 7.1 million units, and garnered just over 15 percent market share. The two companies grew by 13.6 percent and 10.6 percent, respectively, for the quarter. IBM was a distant third with 2.3 million units. It grew only 2 percent.

Apple Computer had a strong quarter, with unit shipment growth in the 40 percent range. IDC said the Mac Mini helped shipments, while the popular iPod music player likely added a halo effect to the Apple line. The company shipped 1.07 million units worldwide and 565,000 in the United States. It has 2.3 percent of the world PC market and 3.1 percent of shipments in the United States, IDC said.

Gartner figures show PC shipments rising 10.3 percent to just over 50 million units. Gartner and IDC often uncover the same trends. But the two firms measure the markets slightly differently and thus publish different figures.

Gartner's measurements also put Dell ahead in the worldwide race with 8.5 million units, up almost 14 percent year over year. But the research firm, citing weakness it observed in the U.S. market, noted that Dell's 14 percent first-quarter growth was the first time the PC maker dipped below the 20 percent growth mark in 10 quarters.

HP had nearly 7 million units shipped, Gartner said, up almost 11 percent. IBM, third in shipments, had 2.3 million, up almost 2 percent. Acer was the dark horse in the quarter, finishing fifth with 1.85 million units, behind Fujitsu-Siemens' 2.1 million units. Although Acer's shipments were far smaller than the likes of Dell and HP, the figure amounts to nearly a 36 percent jump year over year.

The race in the States
Several PC market players also made moves in the United States. PC market, which saw shipments rise to 14.6 million, a 6.5 percent increase from a year ago, according to IDC.

Dell's shipments increased by about 8 percent to nearly 5 million, and HP grew almost 4 percent to about 2.7 million units.

But Gateway, ranked third in the United States, slipped. Despite signs that it's gaining at retailers in the United States, Gateway's combined Gateway-brand and eMachines-brand PC shipments dipped by about 23 percent from a year ago during the first quarter, IDC said.

IDC, which noted that it won't have final figures until after Gateway reports first-quarter earnings later this month, said the PC maker shipped 830,000 units.

IBM came in fourth, with 627,000 units shipped and 4.3 percent of the U.S. market. Apple's 565,000 unit shipments gave it 3.9 percent of the market, good for the fifth spot.

For its part, Gartner observed some troubles in the United States, where it said an uptick in notebook PC shipments wasn't enough to offset declines in desktop PCs. Total U.S. PC unit shipments rose 2.3 percent year over year, to 15.2 million, Gartner said. Dell topped the market with about 4.9 million units shipped, up 8.5 percent. HP had about 2.7 million units, up just over 3 percent. Gartner saw similar results for Gateway, which it says shipped 826,000 units, hurt by traditionally slower first-quarter sales of consumer PCs.

Apple moved up into the fifth position in Gartner's U.S. rankings, between fourth-ranked IBM and sixth-ranked Toshiba. Apple saw strong shipments of iMac and PowerBook models help it grow its overall U.S. shipments by 45 percent to 571,000 during the quarter, Gartner said. Apple had 3.7 percent of U.S. shipments.

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