Computer sales are traditionally strong in the last three months of the year, but International Data Corporation expects fourth-quarter sales in 1998 to grow 12.2 percent in the United States over the same period in 1997.
The strong growth in sales should moderate but continue in 1999, IDC said. Total worldwide PC sales for 1999 will increase 12.8 percent from 89.2 million computers shipped in 1998 to 100.6 million in 1999.
The strong sales are the result of several factors, including "a big seasonal upswing in buying in Western Europe, a robust U.S. consumer market, a rebounding portable computer market, and a continued rapid expansion of the population of Internet users," IDC said.
But there is room for all the big names to benefit in the fourth-quarter buying spree, IDC said. Compaq and Dell, as well as Hewlett-Packard and IBM, should benefit from the strong sales growth in the United States and Europe.
In addition, "Apple should benefit by the holiday buying season and an aggressive promotional campaign," IDC said. Despite some recent concerns about fourth-quarter performance, Gateway also is expected to take advantage of the strong U.S. home computer market.
European PC sales are expected to jump dramatically in the fourth quarter of 1998, increasing 15.6 percent over 1997. "This region is being led by greater economic confidence in the all-important German market," IDC said, adding that Europe also is seeing sales increase from the allure of low-cost PCs and the Internet.
Sales appear to be better in Japan, which has been hit hard by Asian financial problems. PC sales are expected to increase in Japan by 5 percent in the fourth quarter compared to 1997.
As for the rest of the Asia-Pacific region, "the growth picture appears to be improving," IDC said. "Stronger-than-expected third-quarter results, combined with strengthening currency and stock markets, bode well for the regional PC market in [the fourth quarter of 1998] and into 1999."
Compaq led the top five worldwide computer sellers in the third quarter of 1998, accounting for 14.4 percent of the 22 million PCs sold. Following Compaq were Dell and IBM, each with 9.2 percent market share, Hewlett-Packard with 6.6 percent, and Packard Bell NEC with 4.5 percent.
IDC's results differ from market share statistics by Dataquest in part because IDC includes Intel-based servers in its PC sales statistics and Dataquest doesn't.