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Hewlett-Packard, while off-kilter and falling 16 percent year-over-year, led the global PC industry in sales through a fourth quarter that met analyst expectations despite a mixed-bag of factors, IDC and Gartner reported Jan. 11.

A muscular Lenovo, again inserting itself between long-time rivals HP and Dell, posted record growth of nearly 37 percent over the same period last year, by IDC’s count 23 percent by Gartner s while third-place Dell rose nearly 8 percent year-over-year.

The industry shipped about 92 million units globally, down about 0.2 percent over the fourth quarter of 2010, according to IDC. Analysts from both Gartner and IDC explained the sluggish sales by pointing to weak holiday shipments, global economic uncertainty, hard-disk drive (HDD) shortages due to flooding in Thailand and, in the case of HP, consumer uncertainty until new CEO Meg Whitman more firmly grabbed hold of the reins.

Despite the challenges, which still also included the upcoming launch of Microsoft s Windows 8 and a need for more mobile PC design, "the industry appears to be on the right path, and will be poised for substantial double-digit growth after working through these issues in 2012," Loren Loverde, IDC vice president of Worldwide Consumer Device Trackers, said in a statement.

By IDC estimates, HP shipped 15.1 million units during the quarter, and despite recent wobbles, "may recover its stride in coming quarters," thanks to a refocus on business stabilization by Whitman, the research firm said in its statement.

Lenovo, with shipments of 13 million units, "cemented its place as the No. 2 vendor in global PC shipments," reported Gartner, attributing the success to aggressive pricing in both professional and consumer markets.   

Dell, moving nearly 12 million units, ended the year on a happy note by both accounts, driven by upgrades to Windows 7 and strong response in the Asia-Pacific region, though it continues to try for new high-margin opportunities in other key markets.

Worldwide, Acer took fourth place, with nearly 9.7 million units down 8 percent year-over-year followed by Asus with sales of 6.2 million, representing a hearty 26 percent uptick. Enjoying growth in all regions, and moving past its backlog of netbooks, Asus put a nice distance between itself and Toshiba.

In the United States, only Apple, in third place, enjoyed year-over-year growth.

By Gartner’s estimates, HP led with shipments of 4.1 million units down 26 percent followed by Dell with 4 million units, down 4.5 percent year-over-year. Apple, shipping 2 million units, posted nearly 21 percent growth. A fourth-place Toshiba, with nearly 2 million shipments, dipped 2.2 percent, and Acer, moving 1.8 million units, fell 11.4 percent.

In total, U.S. PC sales, at 17.9 million units, fell nearly 6 percent from the same quarter a year ago. Gartner analysts said consumers’ attention was instead on smartphones and tablets, though all-in-one desktops and large screens with high-definition viewing drew eyeballs. Going with the trend, Lenovo and Acer are rumored to be planning new Windows 8 tablets for this year, running on the Intel s upcoming Atom chips known as Clover Trail.

"In the United States, market saturation and the economic environment continue to weigh considerably on consumer demand," David Daoud, IDC research director of personal computing, said in the report. "However, the market is awaiting new products and technologies, promising a new refresh cycle starting in 3Q12 and beyond with a return to positive growth in the midterm."


To read the original eWeek article, click here: Limping HP Retains Top PC Spot, With Muscular Lenovo Close Behind