The global PC market returned to its familiar downward slope in the fourth quarter, according to preliminary numbers from market analysts.
PC makers shipped 68.6 million personal computers in the final quarter of 2018, a decline of 4.3 percent compared with the same period a year earlier, market researcher Gartner reported Thursday. IDC reported similar results, tallying 68.1 million PC shipments for the quarter, a 3.7 percent decline.
The market was largely flat the previous two quarters, leading to mild optimism that it could be stabilizing after six years of uninterrupted declines. The drop was largely due to a shortage of parts, Gartner said.
"Just when demand in the PC market started seeing positive results, a shortage of CPUs (central processing units) created supply chain issues," Mikako Kitagawa, senior principal analyst at Gartner, said in a statement. "The impact from the CPU shortage affected vendors' ability to fulfill demand created by business PC upgrades."
Also weighing on the market were political and economic uncertainties among small- and midsize businesses.
"The ongoing economic tensions between China and the United States continue to create a lot of uncertainty in the business environment in China," IDC Research Manager Maciek Gornicki said in a statement.
Lenovo was the top PC maker in the quarter, capturing 14.2 percent of the market with 16.6 million units shipped, Gartner said. While Lenovo's shipments in the quarter grew 5.9 percent, HP managed to grab the No. 2 spot with 22.4 percent market share despite shipping 15.3 million PCs, a 4.4 percent decline. Third-place Dell grew its business 1.4 percent on 10.9 million units shipped, giving it 15.9 percent of the market.
Apple's market share of 7.2 percent was a distant fourth, declining 3.8 percent on 4.9 million units shipped.
IDC, which ranked the top four PC makers in the same order, recorded similar shipping and market share figures. But there's a touch of optimism in the near-year forecast.
"While the processor supply challenges are expected to continue into the first two quarters of 2019, PC makers are likely to see the situation improve before the back-to-school season begins during the latter half of the year," IDC Senior Research Analyst Neha Mahajan said in a statement.
Gartner's preliminary worldwide PC vendor unit shipment estimates:
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