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PC market surged in 2005, will settle in 2006

More than 208 million PCs were shipped in 2005--a new record; but the growth will slow down a bit next year.

A correction was made to this story. Read below for details.

Notebooks and price cuts helped the PC market grow by 16.4 percent worldwide in 2005 in terms of units, although the rate of growth will likely slow down this year, according to IDC.

PC shipments have been above analysts' expectations all year, according to Loren Loverde at IDC, which raised its estimates several times during the year. The results for the fourth quarter and the year exceeded IDC's most recent expectations from November.

In all, 208.6 million desktops, notebooks and x86 servers left factories and workshops in 2005, according to IDC. The estimated value, or revenue, generated by these machines worldwide likely came to around $218 billion, an increase of 9 percent over $200 billion in 2004.

In 2006, however, things will decelerate. PC shipments will likely grow by 10.5 percent worldwide while value will probably climb only 3.6 percent to $226 billion, Loverde said.

"The decline in growth reflects a general concern about rising interest rates, housing and fuel prices," he said. Nonetheless, these didn't have a lot of impact in 2005, so they may not play much of a role this year. "The fourth-quarter results didn't show a lot of reaction to them."

As in the first three quarters, notebook, discounts and emerging markets helped propel sales in the fourth quarter. Fourth-quarter shipments rose 17.1 percent worldwide; in November, IDC predicted fourth-quarter shipments would grow by 15.8 percent.

The market leaders solidified their positions worldwide, and the rankings stayed largely the same. Dell remained the top PC maker in the world, growing global shipments by 20.1 percent in the fourth quarter (and 18.8 percent for the year). The company's market share worldwide in the fourth quarter rose to 18.1 percent, up from 17.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2004.

Like last quarter, Dell only grew a bit faster than the market as a whole. For Dell, that's uncharacteristically slow. The company, however, is doing well in growth markets like Asia, Loverde said. Dell grew shipments there by 49 percent in the fourth quarter, which was faster than the market's growth. Overall, Dell's international shipments grew by 37 percent in the fourth quarter.

Acer, No. 4 worldwide, saw shipments grow by 52.5 percent in the fourth quarter and 53.9 percent for the year. Acer now has 4.1 percent of the global market and has been the fastest-growing large PC maker for the past two years. Much of the company's growth comes from Europe.

By contrast, both Hewlett-Packard, No. 2 worldwide and in the U.S., and Lenovo, ranked No. 3 in the world, grew slower than the market.

In the fourth quarter, HP saw worldwide shipments grow 15.8 percent, slower than the 17.1 percent mark for the market as a whole. For the year on a worldwide basis, HP grew by 15.7 percent, slower than the 16.4 annual growth rate. In the U.S., HP's shipments grew by 6.7 percent for the fourth quarter, compared with 8.7 percent for the market as a whole and 7.3 percent for the year, below the 10 percent mark for the U.S. as a whole.

Lenovo, when the IBM merger is taken into account, grew shipments by 12.6 percent in the fourth quarter worldwide. For the year, Lenovo-IBM saw shipments shrink 5.1 percent. Their merger took place in 2005, Loverde noted. Historically, some companies have lost more market share in merger years.

Another beneficiary of rising PC sales was Advanced Micro Devices. Preliminary figures for chipmakers aren't in yet, but even Intel executives concede that the company lost market share to its smaller competitor.

Toshiba sneaks ahead of Apple
In the U.S., the picture was similar to the previous quarters. Dell stayed in the top spot and saw its market share grow to 33.5 percent with HP staying in second place. Gateway, on the comeback trail, held the third spot by growing 33 percent. Its market share is now 6.1 percent, up from 5.1 percent a year ago.

Toshiba, meanwhile, snuck ahead of Apple Computer to take the fifth place for U.S. shipments with a 3.5 percent market share. Notebook sales helped the Japanese company, said IDC analyst David Daoud. Toshiba periodically makes an appearance in the top five.

For the year, however, Apple topped Toshiba with a 3.3 percent market share to Toshiba's 3.2 percent. For the year, Apple grew shipments by 32 percent, just slightly slower than Gateway.

Correction: Due to incorrect data from IDC, Lenovo's PC shipments in 2005 were misstated. The company's shipments climbed 10.3 percent.