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Despite HP's Gains, Dell Remains On Top Of PC Shipments

While HP saw great sales gains in 2006, Dell managed to hang on to the top position for the overall year.
Hewlett-Packard's fourth-quarter jump in PC shipments wasn't quite enough to topple Dell from its top spot for annual worldwide sales, but the race is getting closer.

HP had great growth in the fourth quarter, boosting its year-over-year growth to nearly 24%. While Dell struggled in the third and fourth quarters of 2006, the company still had the most worldwide shipments of any PC manufacturer for the year as a whole, beating out HP by one-tenth of one percent, according to IDC.

The battle between these two manufacturing titans came during a year that saw worldwide PC shipments grow 10%. That's down from shipment growth in 2005, which reached 16%.

"This was a busy quarter, with the release of Vista for commercial users and the pending release for consumers on top of the ongoing transition to Portables and a generally slowing market," says Loren Loverde, director of IDC's Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker. "Add to that the changing pricing environment and segment dynamics and it was a very challenging quarter. HP clearly was able to capitalize on the situation, solidifying its lead in worldwide quarterly shipments with a 3.4% share advantage over Dell, but it also reflects underlying pricing and segment trends that were tough on competitors such as Dell, Lenovo, Gateway, and Fujitsu-Siemens."

IDC reports that HP took "a clear lead" in worldwide shipment volume for the final quarter of the year. Growth in the United States rebounded to near 16% from a dip to single digits in the third quarter, while international growth surged above 28% with a strong showing in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Despite its grasp on the top spot, Dell's picture wasn't so rosy.

Dell was unable to recover from a slow third quarter and stumbled through the end of the year, reports IDC. Shipments to the U.S. market, which continue to represent more than 50% of the company's volume, were down nearly 17% year over year, following a single-digit decline in the third quarter.

International sales weren't rock solid for Dell, either.

Dell's international growth, which was relatively stable in the third quarter, fell to just 1.5% in the last quarter of 2006, with notably slower growth in all regions. "Dell's focus on profitability over share is coming right at a time of aggressive competition from companies such as HP, Acer, and Apple, and is compounded by a slow commercial market," IDC analysts write in their report. "As a result, Dell is in the unusual circumstance of seeing volume decline sequentially from the third quarter in both the United States and worldwide."

Apple, on the other hand, saw another quarter of very solid growth as the company combined new portable products with strong retail sales and positive press following a successful transition to Intel processors, reports IDC. Worldwide and U.S. shipments were each up roughly 30% year over year. The company also continues to benefit from its music business and news of upcoming products, such as the iPhone. Analysts contend that the new device "will not only drive more positive press and buyer interest, but further expand the number of people using at least one Apple product who may come into the Apple fold."

The top five vendors for 2006 worldwide PC shipments are:

-- Dell with 17.1%;
-- HP with 17%;
-- Lenovo with 7.3%;
-- Acer with 5.9%;
-- Toshiba with 4%.

The top five vendors for fourth-quarter worldwide PC shipments are:

-- HP with 18.1%;
-- Dell with 14.7%;
-- Lenovo with 7.3%;
-- Acer with 7.1%;
-- Toshiba with 3.7%.

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Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing
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Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing
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