The global market for personal computers is still weak, after two years of declining sales, although IDC researchers cited some positive signs in a pair of sales reports issued Monday.
Worldwide PC shipments totaled 80.8 million units in the fourth quarter of 2014 (4Q14), a year-on-year decline of -2.4%, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker.
Researchers at another firm, Gartner, estimate PC shipments rose 1 percent in the last quarter, while shipments for the year are down less than 1 percent.
IDC found that total shipments were slightly above expectations of -4.8% growth, but the market still contracted both year on year and in comparison to the third quarter. Although the holiday quarter saw shipment volume inch above 80 million for the first time in 2014, the final quarter nonetheless marked the end of yet another difficult year - the third consecutive year with overall volumes declining. On an annual basis, 2014 shipments totaled 308.6 million units, down -2.1% from the prior year.
Commercial demand, which boosted growth earlier in the year, has slowed while consumer demand is gradually coming back. Nevertheless, the market progress has been fueled by low-priced systems, including growth of Chromebooks and promotion of Windows 8 + Bing.
"The U.S. PC market continued to grow in the fourth quarter, outperforming the global market for the tenth consecutive quarter. The past year was supported by Windows XP to 7 migrations in the commercial segment while consumer volume continued to decline," said Rajani Singh, Senior Research Analyst, Personal Computing. "Moving forward, the U.S. PC market should see flat to slightly positive growth. The U.S. consumer PC market will finally move to positive growth in 2015, strengthened by the slowdown in the tablet market, vendor and OEM efforts to rejuvenate the PC market, the launch of Window 10, and replacement of older PCs."
In the United States, market leader HP had a remarkable quarter with year on year growth jumping to more than 26%. Other key vendors also had strong performances. As a result, the U.S. PC market concentration has increased to 83% of shipments coming from the top 5 vendors. Portable PC growth remains strong with double-digit growth from a year ago, while desktop shipments declined by more than -10%.
PC shipments in EMEA posted a slight increase in the fourth quarter, fuelled mainly by strong consumer demand during the holiday season.
The Japanese market continued to slump following a surge of XP replacements a year ago.
APeJ continued to stabilize with growth rising to positive territory following several years of significant declines. HP had a strong recovery from recent quarters, while Dell continued to gain share.
Lenovo continued to push hard in EMEA, expanding channels and capturing consumer holiday demand. The company also outpaced the market in the U.S. ? though by a smaller margin.
HP also saw a tremendous quarter with 15.9 million units and year on year growth surpassing 15%. A particularly strong quarter in the U.S. was a key driver, along with some volume for public projects in Asia/Pacific and Africa.
Dell shipped over 10.8 million units growing 8.5% on the year, much of it based on a strong performance in notebooks in the U.S. and APeJ.
Acer grew over 3%, in part due to low volume a year ago but also from the success of its Chromebooks and entry-level notebooks.
Apple kept the number 5 position on a worldwide basis, maintaining its lead over ASUS. The company's steady growth, along with recent price cuts and improved demand in mature markets, has helped it to consistently outgrow the market.