PC shipments fell again last quarter, but U.S. market fared better than others

It's that time again. Research firms Gartner and IDC have both posted their shipment figures for the PC market in the first quarter. As always, the two companies don't strictly agree on the details—but they do corroborate each other on some points.

Globally, Gartner says 76.6 million PCs were shipped in Q1 2014, a 1.7% decline over the same quarter a year ago. IDC pegs the global shipment figure at 73.4 million and the decline at a steeper 4.4%. Either way, both firms say we can thank Windows XP's demise for stymieing further shrinkage. "All regions indicated a positive effect since the end of XP support stimulated the PC refresh of XP systems," writes Gartner's Mikako Kitagawa. "Professional desktops, in particular, showed strength in the quarter." According to IDC, "Commercial refresh projects, which had already been protracted, received a last push from the impending end of Windows XP support, particularly in Japan."

In the U.S., Gartner shows 2.1% year-on-year shipment growth to 14.1 million units. IDC paints a less rosy picture, reporting a 0.6% decline to 14.3 million units—but conceding that the U.S. fared better "than most other regions." Interestingly, IDC also says U.S. desktop shipments actually rose by 3.5% in Q1. That jibes with what we've been hearing from Intel, which has seen growing shipments of desktop CPUs, particularly for high-end desktops, all-in-ones, and mini PCs. I guess the 0.6% overall decline was mainly due to shrinking notebook shipments.

In any case, IDC doesn't seem to see much room for growth stateside. "[T]he passing boost from XP replacements, constrained consumer demand, and no clear driver of a market rebound are expected to keep growth below zero going forward," the firm says. Gartner's Kitagawa is slightly more optimistic, though not by much. "The U.S. PC market has been highly saturated with devices: 99 percent of households own at least one or more desktops or laptops, and more than half of them own both," she writes. "While tablet penetration is expected to reach 50 percent in 2014, some consumer spending could return to PCs."

As for the global PC market, IDC says, "[T]here is potential for PC shipments to stabilize, but not much opportunity for growth." And Gartner's Kitagawa chimes in, "While the PC market remains weak, it is showing signs of improvement compared to last year."

Gartner's and IDC's reports also include some market share figures. Globally, both firms agree that HP has lost the top global spot to Lenovo. HP is now in second place, followed by Dell, Acer, and Asus. In the U.S., both reports put HP and Dell in the top two spots, but IDC says Lenovo is third, while Gartner puts Apple in that spot. The market share delta between Lenovo and Apple is a fraction of a percent in both cases, though.

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