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Notebooks continue to drive growth in worldwide PC market

Biggest gains are made in mobile PCs shipped to European, Middle Eastern and African nations, while the U.S. market sees some minor drops.

Shipments of PCs to the saturated U.S. market may be declining somewhat, but the EMEA region (Europe, Middle East, Africa) gave the worldwide PC market a big boost in the third quarter, according to figures released Wednesday by IDC.

PC shipments grew 15.5 percent worldwide in the past quarter. Growth in the EMEA regions, led by Hewlett-Packard and Acer, was paced by a strong demand for notebooks and back-to-school promotions, leading to the best growth rates in the region in the past two years.

"The issue is that it continues to be notebooks that are driving strong growth for the overall market. It's happening on the consumer and enterprise sides," said Bob O'Donnell, IDC vice president for clients and displays. "Consumers increasingly are voting for notebooks."

HP continued to stretch its lead over rival Dell as the No. 1 PC maker in the world. HP's slice of the global PC vendor pie now stands at 19.6 percent, keeping Dell in second place with 15.2 percent. It was exactly a year ago when HP toppled Dell as the top dog of the PC world. Since then, HP's growth has continued apace, while Dell has struggled. But the Round Rock, Texas, PC maker appears to be turning things around.

For one, Dell, which is overrepresented in sales to U.S. customers, is starting to spread its business to a variety of geographic regions, something CEO Michael Dell acknowledged at an investor conference earlier this year.

"Now they're starting to reap some benefits," said O'Donnell. "Call it a turnaround or call it a readjustment, but they're starting to get their ships in order and get things back on track. But they still have a ways to go."

Case in point: Though Dell made some good gains in shipment volume growth in the past year, it was the only of the top five PC vendors to lose worldwide market share from a year ago. After HP and Dell, IDC says the top vendors are Lenovo (8.2 percent), Acer (8.1 percent) and Toshiba (4.4 percent). Rival analyst firm Gartner places Acer (8.1 percent) slightly ahead of Lenovo (8.0 percent) in its rankings.

Acer had made some monstrous gains in quarters past, and though the third quarter was still very healthy--with an industry-leading 60 percent growth in shipments over the last year--its rate of growth shows signs of slowing.

"The volume was down sequentially for Acer. That signifies that they've hit a bit of a wall in terms of U.S. growth," said O'Donnell. "A lot people thought that would happen. It's a different animal in the U.S. where (success is determined by) retail shelf space."

So while Acer continues to grow, nobody in any industry can keep up that type of pace. The addition of Gateway and Packard Bell to its arsenal should provide more opportunities to grow, but the impact of the two acquisitions likely won't be felt for several quarters, O'Donnell said.

Here in the U.S., overall PC shipments grew a scant 5.2 percent since the same quarter last year. Desktop shipments continued to decline, and while notebook shipments did grow, they didn't quite match last quarter's numbers, said IDC.

Dell maintained its lead in the U.S., but HP continues to lurk closely behind. Dell's U.S. share is 28 percent, followed by HP with 24.3, Apple with 6.3, Toshiba with 5.2 and Gateway with 4.8 percent. Gartner's data ranks the vendors the same, but gives Apple an 8.1 percent share and also bumps Gateway up slightly to 5.2 percent.