Computer Sales: Up And Personal

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Personal computer sales in the second quarter grew at the highest rate since 2000, with industry analysts attributing the unexpected growth spurt to competitive pricing and higher demand for laptops.

About 33 million PCs were shipped worldwide during the second quarter ending June 30 — a 7.6 percent increase over last year and better than the 4.1 percent increase predicted by IDC, one of two research firms that released PC sales analyses Wednesday.

"A lot of users are buying a portable as a second system and businesses are understanding the importance of mobility," said Loren Loverde, IDC's Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker director.

He also said that Dell and Hewlett-Packard, which captured the top two vendor spots, competed aggressively with each other in "pushing bundles, coming out with new models that are attractively priced, rebate programs."

Gartner Dataquest, which uses slightly different measurements, calculated a 10 percent increase in PC sales over the second quarter of 2002.

"The PC sales market seemed to have a pretty good quarter after several years of almost nothing but bad news," said Gartner Dataquest vice president Charles Smulders.

Dell Computer Corp., based in Round Rock, Texas, maintained its top position from last quarter, with HP, based in Palo Alto, Calif., coming in second. IBM and Fujitsu-Siemens placed third and fourth, respectively.

IDC, which rounded off its preliminary top five list with Toshiba, will issue a final list after Gateway's earnings are released July 24. Gartner Dataquest put Tokyo-based NEC Corp. in fifth place.

Dell and HP, which have been trading top spots over the past year, seem to be leaving their competitors behind.

They each sold more than 5.7 million units, whereas third-spot holder IBM sold about 2.1 million, according to both firms.

Dell's worldwide sales grew about 29 percent, to more than 5.9 million units in the second quarter, and its market share improved from 14.9 percent to 17.8 percent, IDC reported. The firm credited Dell's strong international sales and its strategy of targeting specific demographics.

HP, whose sales grew faster than the market rate both in the United States and abroad, captured 16.2 percent of the market, up from 15.4 percent last year, IDC said.

Hewlett-Packard merged with Compaq a year ago. The latest figures were compared with the combined Compaq and HP numbers from last year.

The United States showed 8.1 percent growth, with consumers shouldering the bulk of the purchases, IDC said. Gartner Dataquest calculated 11.1 percent growth. Corporate spending remained relatively low but showed signs of improvement.

Dell, with 31.1 percent of the U.S. market share, nearly surpassed the other top four vendors' combined shipments, Gartner Dataquest said.

"Europe and the U.S. were slightly stronger than expected," Smulders said. "The disappointment was the Asia Pacific region, specifically China where the SARS issue certainly had a negative impact on sales through April and May."