Third-quarter PC shipments down, but not so bad in the U.S.

It's that time again. Gartner and IDC have both published preliminary PC market data for the third quarter of the year. The two reasearch firms both report substantial declines in global shipments compared to a year ago—but they have different takes on the extent of the damage.

According to Gartner, global shipments fell by 8.6%, which not only marked the sixth consecutive quarter of declining shipments, but also brought sales to their "lowest volume since 2008." IDC, meanwhile, seems pleasantly surprised; it says global shipments fell by only 7.6%, less than the 9.5% it projected.

The U.S. market seems to have beaten the global trend, at least to some degree. Gartner says shipments went up 3.5%, marking the second consecutive quarter of growth. The firm believes sales were buoyed by low inventories, the release of Intel's Haswell processors, and the introduction of "new form factors." Rival research firm IDC agrees that U.S. shipments "outperformed many other regions" and that U.S. growth "stabilized." However, it quotes a 0.2% decline in shipments compared to the same quarter last year—still better than the global figure, but a decline nonetheless.

IDC's and Gartner's reports also include some market share numbers. There are fewer discrepancies between those.

Internationally, the two firms show Lenovo in the number-one spot, thanks in part to a 2.8% year-on-year increase in shipments. HP and Dell followed in second and third place, respectively, with mostly flat growth. Acer and Asus brought up the rear, both with double-digit shipment declines.

Domestically, Gartner and IDC agree that HP and Dell led the pack, with growth in the low single digits. There's some disagreement on Apple's fate, though. While IDC and Gartner both put Apple in third place, IDC says the Mac maker's shipments tumbled by 11.2%, while Gartner reports a smaller, 2.3% decline. Nevertheless, the firms agree that Lenovo and Toshiba came in fourth and fifth, respectively, and that the two firms saw substantial double-digit growth.

Things are still pretty rough out there, but it's interesting to see the U.S. turning into a beacon of (relative) growth amid a slumping market. It wasn't so long ago that that emerging markets drove global PC growth, and "mature" markets like the U.S. held it back. Last quarter, according to IDC, "emerging markets continued to exhibit troubling signs, with Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan)(APeJ) in particular still facing stock of Ivy Bridge-based systems and continued encroachment from lower-priced tablets and smartphones."

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