Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Lenovo Overtakes HP as World’s Top PC Maker in Q3

Well, we knew this day was coming, and now it has arrived. As of today, Hewlett-Packard is no longer the world’s leading manufacturer of PCs.

In numbers just released, Gartner Group confirmed that HP, which took the crown away from Dell some years back, is now the No. 2 PC maker, behind China’s Lenovo.

It is for Lenovo a dubious achievement that had been pretty well telegraphed last quarter. But let’s have a look at the numbers for the third quarter of 2012.

Overall shipments declined by 8.3 percent, according to Gartner’s reckoning, and totaled 87.5 million units worldwide. At least part of that decline Gartner lays at the door of Microsoft, whose Windows 8 operating system has yet to ship, prompting companies and some consumers to hold off on any buying decisions.

The usually healthy back-to-school season was a wash, and by September retailers were focused more on clearing out unsold inventory ahead of Windows 8 than anything else.

As you can see in the numbers to the right (click to enlarge), Lenovo edged out HP on the market share front by a only a whisker, maybe two, while Dell stayed in the No. 3 spot. Whether or not HP can finish out the year in the No. 1 spot it held for the first two quarters of the year will depend on a strong finish in the fourth quarter, which, given the state of the world economy, is far from certain.

Frankly, HP is probably happy to let Lenovo have the title. For months there’s been grumbling about how aggressive Lenovo, which is about one-third owned by a Chinese state-controlled entity, has been on pricing. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if Lenovo was willing to take little to no profit and even lose money on some models in order to seize worldwide bragging rights.

But it’s sort of a Pyrrhic victory. The PC market has never contracted quite like this in its entire history, with the possible exception of the 2002-2003 recession period. And isn’t the era of the personal computer over anyway? Yeah, actually it is, by one of many metrics.

Just look at the state of the U.S. market, where sales fell by nearly 14 percent over the year-ago period. U.S. consumers and companies bought 15.3 million PCs, down from 17.8 million in the third quarter of 2011. HP at least held on to the top spot in the States, with 27 percent of the market, versus Dell, which had 21.4 percent. Apple was third at 13.6 percent, and Lenovo fourth. Acer and Toshiba were essentially tied for fifth.

A few minutes after the Gartner numbers came in, I got the numbers from Gartner’s main rival, IDC, and it appears to be a disputed world title: IDC has HP still maintaining the slimmest of global leads.

IDC has the market declining by 8.6 percent in Q3 — much worse than the 3.6 percent contraction it had predicted — and HP ahead of Lenovo by 0.2 percent, which we’ll just call two whiskers again. See the numbers below. The worst part, clearly, is HP’s year-on-year decline of more than 16 percent. Ouch.

HP makes it clear whose interpretation of the market it prefers: IDCs. In a statement I just received it says: “While there are a variety of PC share reports in the market, some don’t measure the market in its entirety. The IDC analysis includes the very important workstation segment and therefore is more comprehensive. In that IDC report, HP occupies the No. 1 position in PCs.”

Workstations of course are the high-powered professional grade PCs that often have two or more CPUs and lots of graphics power and are used to animate movies and design buildings. I never knew IDC counted them as PCs as well, but if that’s how they do it, then that’s how they do it.

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