Dell Regains Worldwide PC Crown

Dell expanded its market share and grabbed back the title of worldwide sales leader from rival Hewlett-Packard as revived business buying helped boost computer sales in the first quarter, according to two reports.

Both Gartner and IDC put Dell at the top of the PC heap during the first quarter of 2004, followed by HP, which held the top spot during the fourth quarter, when holiday-driven consumer spending helped tip the scales in its favor. The two companies have been jockeying for the top spot ever since HP closed its acquisition of Compaq.

But the recent data suggest Dell is benefiting more from a return of business buyers to the PC market, outselling HP by more than 1 million units in the quarter, one of the largest leads either company has held over its rival over the past year and a half.

Dell sold 7.7 million of the 45.3 million computers shipped worldwide during the quarter, according to Gartner’s figures. While sales were down nearly 7 percent from the fourth quarter of 2003, that represents normal seasonal fluctuation, both research firms noted. Sales were more than 13 percent higher than the first quarter of last year.

Growing Total

HP managed to grow the number of machines it shipped by 16 percent, strong growth by any measure. But Dell saw its output expand by 28 percent, fueled by strength in overseas markets, including Europe and Asia.

IDC analyst Roger Kay told the E-Commerce Times that the rise in PC sales are within forecasts and indicate at least a modest economic recovery not only the United States but other key markets for computer makers as well.

“There’s no reason to believe the strength in the market can’t last through 2004,” Kay said, as more businesses come off the sidelines.

If that happens, IBM will likely see the benefits in part because of its strength in the enterprise sector. But, Kay added: “Dell appears to be heading in the right direction and in position to pick up the lion’s share of the growth.”

Numbers Game

Both research firms had IBM in third place overall, followed by Fujitsu, Acer, which dominates the European market, and Toshiba. Gateway remained in seventh place, but its acquisition of eighth-place vendor eMachines during the quarter gives it a strong chance to move up the ranking going forward.

“Gateway has a new lease on life in the PC market with eMachines,” Kay said.

Gartner Vice President Charles Smulders said the long-awaited business-buying activity has materialized, creating a rising tide that is lifting most boats.

“Because the growth is happening in most markets worldwide, a lot of different vendors are benefiting from the uptick,” Smulders told the E-Commerce Times.

Rising Tide

That contrasts with the market during 2002 and early 2003, when slow buying by businesses led to price-cutting that battered some of the weaker vendors, such as Gateway and smaller regional suppliers. Gartner is also predicting sales will remain strong through 2004, fueled largely by enterprise spending on replacement machines.

Apple remained just barely in the top 10 rankings worldwide, with growth of around 5 percent overall, though both firms noted that their rankings do not include sales of handheld devices, a market where Apple has excelled.

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