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PC Business Showed Signs of Sucking Less in 2014

China's Lenovo remained on top for a second year in a row.


After a year or two of the worst conditions since records have been kept, the global market for personal computers recovered slightly in 2014, which is to say it declined more slowly than it did in the prior two years.

That’s not saying much, as 2013 was the worst year ever for global PC sales, when the market declined by 10 percent.

The latest estimates from market research firms Gartner and IDC, both out today, have pegged the decline at about two percent and change. Gartner says PC makers shipped slightly less than 316 million units during the year, while IDC estimated the number at closer to 309 million. (More on the difference in a moment.)

China-based Lenovo dominated the business for a second year in row with about 19 percent of the market, according to Gartner. Hewlett-Packard was a close second with 17.5 percent. Dell was third at just less than 13 percent. Acer and Asus rounded out Gartner’s top five. In the IDC survey, Apple replaced Asus in fifth place globally, both during the fourth quarter and the full year. IDC estimated that Apple finished with a 6.4 percent share of the market.

Usually the results between the two firms are directionally consistent, but they differed quite a bit on how they saw sales in the fourth quarter. Gartner reported modest growth, up one percent versus the same period of 2013, while IDC said it saw a decline of 2.4 percent.

The one thing they agree on is that most of the top five increased their shipments in the fourth quarter. Gartner said HP grew its shipments by 16 percent during the quarter, while IDC reported growth of 15 percent.

One reason for the variations is that the firms track shipments a little differently. But another big difference is that IDC includes Chromebooks — notebooks running Google’s ChromeOS operating system — while Gartner does not. And IDC excludes 2-in-1 hybrid PCs like the Microsoft Surface, while Gartner includes all tablets and hybrids that run Windows.

Among the global regions, the strongest market in both surveys was the U.S. Gartner said U.S. sales grew 13 percent in the fourth quarter, while Gartner said they grew a little less than five percent.

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