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Europe Is Bright Star In Worldwide PC Boom

PC makers posted their fourth consecutive quarter of solid growth, fueled largely by sales gains in Europe.
Booming sales of in Europe and in the professional-replacement market in the United States helped PC manufacturers log their fourth straight quarter of solid growth. In reports from IDC and Gartner, both market-research firms also took note of a surge by Acer Inc., which logged growth of more than 60% in Europe.

IDC said the global PC market increased 15%, representing nearly 40 million units shipped.

Dell continued to pull slightly ahead of Hewlett-Packard in their ongoing race, with Gartner giving Dell a 16.5% market share, while IDC reports 18.2%. Gartner lists HP at 14.3%, while IDC puts HP at 15.6%. The differences are explained by the fact that each market-research firm uses a different approach in developing its quarterly figures.

Loren Loverde, IDC director of Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker, said the surge in European PC sales is largely attributed to the strong euro and aggressive promotions. Acer's European sales were the standout, rising dramatically, albeit from a small base.

"Acer did that by focusing on low-cost systems," Loverde said in an interview. "Promotions helped, too--rebates, bundles with printers." Loverde noted that European sales were likely helped by the strong euro, as buyers realized they could increase value by buying PCs made in the United States and overseas. "The strong Euro gives them better buying power," he said.

Gartner also pointed out that, despite a 17% boom in units sold in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, actual revenue was flat, or even slightly down.

U.S. markets also showed strength, although not at the levels of the European market. IDC's Loverde said the U.S. market is positioned well for a continued recovery in the second half of the year. "Seasonal buying trends should come into play," he said, "as back-to-school, public-sector, and consumer purchasing sustain market momentum."

IDC said the lone slow sector in the United States was in federal-government spending, which suffered in comparison with the previous year's quarter. Gartner cited the professional-replacement market as a key of the current upswing, but cautioned that it can't grow indefinitely.

As for Dell, the company continued its forward momentum and appears to continue to squeeze growing profits out of the fiercely competitive PC environment. On Friday, Dell raised its second-quarter profit prediction by 2 cents, to 31 cents a share. Last year the firm earned 24 cents in the same quarter. Dell attributed the increase to "robust" enterprise activity.

IDC listed IBM in third place, followed by Fujitsu, Fujitsu/Siemens, and Acer. Precise figures aren't yet available from Gateway or eMachines, as those two companies carry out their merger.