6 Takeaways From Another Lackluster Quarter For The PC Market

Holidays, Innovation, Enthusiasm Not Enough To Return PC Market To Growth

Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the rest of the holiday gift-giving season couldn't rescue the worldwide PC market from yet another quarter of declines, according to research firm Gartner.

Worldwide PC shipments declined 3.7 percent year over year in the fourth quarter, Gartner said, as the industry's top vendors -- Lenovo, HP Inc. and Dell -- consolidated market share. Each of those companies, along with Apple, gained share and increased global shipments during the quarter while other players struggled. IDC also published PC market numbers this week, and estimated that worldwide shipments declined about 1.5 percent year over year in the fourth quarter.

The situation was similar in the U.S. market, where the fourth-quarter decline in shipments was 1.3 percent year over year, leaving top vendors to battle for share as buyers continue to stretch the lifespan of their PCs and increasingly favor mobile devices, Gartner said.

And while vendors have found fertile ground with what Gartner calls "engaged PC users who put high priority on PCs," that market is not big enough to influence overall growth, the research firm said. Click through for more key takeaways from the PC market's tough fourth quarter.

It's Not For Lack Of Trying

Gartner notes that PC makers are indeed innovating with new 2-in-1s, ultralight notebooks and a rapid pace of technology improvement. Those innovations and improvements take advantage of growth opportunities with business buyers, gamers and "engaged PC users," Gartner said, but the market overall is in for stagnation and continued declines for at least another year.

Lenovo Maintains Worldwide Crown, Makes Gains In U.S.

The worldwide PC market leader managed 1.6 percent growth globally, Gartner said, enough to keep it ahead of advancing threats from HP and Dell. Lenovo's worldwide PC market share was 21.7 percent in the quarter, just ahead of HP's 20.4 percent showing. Lenovo made strides in the U.S., however, notching 8.4 percent growth, outgrowing HP, Dell and Apple in that market and finishing the quarter with 13.8 percent market share, making it the third-largest PC vendor in the U.S.

HP Closes In On Lenovo, Fends Off Dell

HP is in position to take the worldwide No. 1 position from Lenovo. In the fourth quarter, HP shipped 14.8 million PCs, less than 1 million off Lenovo's total. And while Lenovo struggled to book any significant growth, HP's total represented a 4.3 percent year-over-year increase, bumping its worldwide market share to 20.4 percent from 18.8 percent a year ago. In the U.S., HP is the top dog, booking 8 percent growth and commanding a 29.9 percent market share in the fourth quarter. However, Dell and its 25.2 percent market share is breathing down its neck.

Dell Sees Strong Global Growth, But U.S. Numbers Lag

While Dell may trail Lenovo and HP in the global PC market, its 5.4 percent growth in the fourth quarter was nearly as much as its two rivals combined. Dell finished the quarter with 14.8 percent market share worldwide. In the U.S., Dell notched a 25.2 percent share of the market, but it wasn't enough to overtake HP. Dell's PC business grew less than 2 percent in the U.S. during the quarter, while HP's grew 8 percent.

Modest Q4 Growth For Apple

Worldwide, Apple was in a virtual dead heat with Asus in the fourth quarter. The company finished the period with 7.5 percent market share, which represents year-over-year growth of about 2.4 percent. In the U.S., Apple commanded a 12.8 percent share of the market, besting its year-ago numbers by 6.4 percent and trailing Lenovo by a narrow margin.

Asus, Acer And The Rest

The industry's top vendors surely steal market share from each other, but Gartner's numbers also demonstrate that they're likely stealing from players like Asus and Acer, as well. Asus, for example, saw an 8.5 percent year-over-year decline in worldwide share in the fourth quarter and Acer declined 4.4 percent. In the U.S., Acer continued to gain ground, booking an 11 percent year-over-year share increase in the quarter. Asus, however, saw its U.S. share decline more than 48 percent. In the group that Gartner designates "others," declines totaled 18.8 percent worldwide and 20.9 percent in the U.S. during the quarter.