H-P Leads Strong Fourth-Quarter PC Sales, Researchers Say

Since 2000, the first year of double-digit PC growth was 2003, according to Gartner and IDC.
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Cheaper prices and the continuing popularity of laptops boosted global shipments of personal computers 12% to 15% in the fourth quarter, two research firms separately reported Wednesday evening.

Research firm Gartner reported that fourth-quarter PC shipments climbed 12% from the same period a year ago, while IDC measured the growth at 15.2%. The quarter marks the third in a row with double-digit increases, according to Gartner.

Meanwhile,

Hewlett-Packard's

(HPQ) - Get Report

strong focus on the consumer moved it to the top spot in worldwide PC shipments in the quarter, pushing rival

Dell

(DELL) - Get Report

to No. 2.

For the full year, PC shipment growth hit double digits for the first time since 2000, coming in at 11.4%, according to IDC. Gartner's estimate pegged full-year growth just slightly lower, at 10.9%.

"Strong consumer demand, robust notebook growth and falling prices were the three key driving forces for shipment growth in 2003," said Charles Smulders, vice president of Gartner's Computing Platforms Worldwide group.

In another good signal of a recovery in the information technology sector, both research firms also identified a modest pickup in corporate PC spending in the fourth quarter. "Caution in the commercial market has begun to dissipate, even as companies keep tight control on spending," said Loren Loverde, director of IDC's Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker.

Gartner echoed that sentiment. "The professional market also showed positive growth, but it was still slow progress," Smulders said. "In the U.S. market, enterprise buyers are still cautious on IT spending, but they did show gradual increases in purchases in the second half of the year."

On the market-share side, H-P captured the top spot from Dell for the first time in a year, according to IDC. H-P grabbed 16% of the market in the fourth quarter, surpassing Dell's 15.6%, IDC reported.

For the whole year, Dell remained in the No. 1 spot, according to both Gartner and IDC.

H-P's strong focus on the U.S. consumer market and successes in Europe, the Middle East and Africa drove its fourth-quarter performance, according to Gartner. The fourth quarter is typically weaker for Dell because it has less of a presence in the worldwide consumer market, Gartner analysts said.