Dell regains PC market lead, perhaps 'for good'

Dell Computer has fended off the combined might of Hewlett-Packard Co. and Compaq Computer Corp. to regain its spot as the world's leading PC vendor, according to data published Thursday by two research firms. Dell is unlikely to give up the crown any time soon, one analyst said.

Both Gartner Inc. and IDC place Dell at the top of the PC market based on worldwide shipments for the third quarter. Dell fended off competition from HP, which is now merged with Compaq, and IBM Corp. to become the only top-tier vendor to gain market share in the quarter, according to Gartner.

"(Dell) is executing better than anybody else, and their prices are very competitive," said Todd Kort, principal analyst at Gartner.

IDC analysts echoed that claim in a statement, noting that Dell, "the perennial U.S. leader, showed no signs of slowing its relentless pace."

Dell now holds 15.9 percent of the PC market, up from 13.8 percent in the same quarter last year, according to Gartner. HP's share dropped from 17.1 percent in 2001 to 15.8 percent this year. IBM rounded out the top three with 6.2 percent of the market, a slight drop from a year ago.

HP could recapture the lead in the fourth quarter due to its strong presence in the consumer market, Kort said. But if a big holiday push by end users did catapult HP to the top spot, it would not be for long, he said.

"It is theoretically possible that HP could recover the number one spot, but I would suggest that in 2003 and beyond Dell is very likely to take the lead for good," Kort said.

After five consecutive quarters of declining PC shipments, the third quarter of 2002 saw shipments grow by 3.8 percent, according to IDC, with about 32.6 million units delivered around the world.

Dell's global PC shipments grew 23.3 percent in the third quarter of 2002 compared to the same quarter a year earlier. It shipped about 5.2 million units, with 3.5 million of those in the U.S., IDC said.

HP, meanwhile, shipped 5.04 million units worldwide, for a 4.9 percent year-over-year decline, according to IDC. IBM trailed in third place with 1.96 million units shipped, a 2.2 percent decline compared to the third quarter a year earlier.

Microsoft Corp., which also closely monitors PC industry shipments, said Thursday that it expected little improvement in the next few quarters, even as the industry looks to the holiday shopping season for a boost in sales.

"There has not been much change in this ecosystem for better or worse," said Microsoft Chief Financial Officer John Connors, during a conference call with analysts following the release of its first fiscal quarter earnings. "We are still looking for PC shipment growth in the low- to mid-single digits," he said.

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