Dell retakes shipment lead as PC market gains

Dell has opened up a wider gap over rival HP as corporate buying lifted the worldwide PC industry in the first quarter of 2004, according to market share figures from IDC and Gartner.

The market enjoyed a strong quarter as corporate customers made up for a seasonal downturn in consumer purchases, vice-president of client computing for IDC, Roger Kay, said.

IDC counted worldwide shipments of 41.2 million units in the first quarter, up 16.5 per cent compared with the first quarter of last year. Gartner put the worldwide shipment figure at 45.3 million units, a 13.4 increase from last year's first quarter.

Gartner's results for total shipments numbers were generally larger because it counted a higher percentage of whitebox systems than IDC did, vice-president of Gartner's Computing Platforms Worldwide group, Charles Smulders, said.

Whiteboxes are PCs assembled and sold without a brand name, mostly by local distributors.

"This is indicative of a general economic recovery," Kay said. "We think it will be sustainable for at least a year."

Dell usually benefitted when the buying mix favoured the corporate customer, and the first quarter was no exception, he said.

The company regained the market share lead from HP with 18.6 per cent of the worldwide market, Kay said.

HP had a stronger presence among consumers and tends to benefit from consumer-heavy quarters such as the fourth-quarter holiday shopping season.

The company slipped out of the leading position it had held in the fourth quarter, finishing three points behind Dell with 15.6 per cent of the market in the first quarter, according to IDC's numbers.

Gartner's numbers were slightly different, but Dell was still in front with 16.5 per cent of the market.

HP's share was 14 per cent, as the company was also hurt by inventory problems in the channel that forced HP to ship fewer units in the first quarter, Smulders said.

The situation was back to normal by the end of the quarter, he said. This is the first time since HP purchased Compaq that either company has had that large a lead on its competitor, Kay said.

Dell simply grew faster than HP as compared to last year's first quarter, posting a 28 per cent gain in shipments over HP's 15.8 per cent improvement, he said.

IBM was third in worldwide shipments with 5.5 per cent of the market.

Strong PC shipment growth in Europe helped Fujitsu Siemens Computers and Acer hold on to fourth and fifth place with 4.6 per cent and 3.3 per cent of the market, respectively, IDC said.

Both IDC and Gartner's shipment numbers measure desktops, notebooks, and servers based on processors from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices that use the x86 instruction set.

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