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The global PC market continued to grow in the third quarter, according to reports from analyst firms International Data Corp. and Gartner Inc. released this week.

But there were variations on the amount the market grew, and whether it was a robust market or one slightly below expectations.

According to IDC, total shipment jumped almost 12 percent to 44.2 million units. That was about 0.5 percent ahead of forecasts, according to the Framingham, Mass., firm.

However, Gartner, of Stamford, Conn., said the market grew 9.7 percent to almost 47 million units, slightly below what the company had forecasted. Gartner attributed this to a weakness in the U.S. market, which saw a 5 percent growth in shipments. Gartner analysts had predicted an 8 percent growth.

“U.S. home notebook shipments were strong during the quarter, but desktop demand was much weaker, which brought down back-to-school shipments overall,” Gartner analyst Charles Smulders said in a statement.

Market researcher iSuppli Corp. recently bumped up its PC forecast for 2004. Click here to read more.

IDC attributed the jump to an increased focus on mobile computing, demand among commercial users, and growth in Europe and other regions.

“PC market performance in the third quarter reflects persistent commercial activity and continuing demand in areas such as mobile computing, Europe and Rest of World,” IDC analyst Loren Loverde said in a statement. “Nevertheless, we would like to see more consumer activity going into the fourth quarter, and growth in Asia could have been stronger.”

Both said Dell Inc. of Round Rock, Texas, continued to hold the top spot, with Hewlett-Packard Co. of Palo Alto, Calif., coming in at No. 2. IDC had Dell’s share at 18.2 percent and HP’s at 16.2 percent. Gartner had Dell at 16.8 percent and HP at 15 percent.

IBM, Fujitsu Ltd. and Toshiba Corp. rounded out the top five slots on each list.

In the United States, Gateway Inc.—which bought eMachines Inc. in March for about $290 million—was in the third spot.

IDC analysts said the company had improved upon second-quarter numbers since the acquisition, but that combined shipments for the two companies was down 12 percent. The firm attributed that to merger issues and the fact that Gateway saw little immediate impact from its recent agreements with such retail outlets as Best Buy Cos. Inc. and Office Depot Inc.

“Regionally, HP is coming under pressure in the U.S. retail market as rivals compete more aggressively for shelf space,” Gartner’s Smulders said.

Dell saw 20 percent growth over the same period last year, including strong gains in the commercial space, portables and global markets, IDC said.

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