PC manufacturers are set for another big year with new research showing that they expanded shipments in the fourth quarter of 2005, according to surveys of worldwide PC shipments released by IDC and Gartner.

Worldwide shipments were up 17.1 percent to 61.1 million units in the quarter. IDC said the growth was led by portable PCs, which captured 38 percent of shipments.

“The market continues a fundamental shift toward mobile computing that is contributing significantly to top-line growth,” said David Daoud of IDC in an interview in the USA. While the shift to laptops from desktops continues unabated, Daoud noted that Microsoft’s coming Windows Vista operating system and Intel’s Viiv platform will likely be a big factor in 2006 shipments.

“My guess is that media center-ready PCs will be successful,” he said. “Suppliers need to do something different. I think all vendors will launch products around the concepts of Viiv, Media Center, and Vista. In general, vendors with a substantial penetration of the consumer market will release such systems and those with retail presence will have a better position with the help of Best Buys and other retailers.”

Daoud, who is research manager, Personal Computing and PC Tracker Programs, noted that while Apple Computer recently attracted the most intense attention for its home digital appliances, Sony has already staked out a position in that market.

Gartner observed that the U.S. slipped behind EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) for the first time as the largest PC shipment market.

Both market research firms observed that Dell Computer grew more than the industry average, but that its rate of growth has begun to slow down. While the main players in the PC market remained stuck in their traditional rankings, the players themselves are undergoing significant change: IBM turned over its PC operation to China’s Lenovo, Hewlett-Packard has a new chief executive, and technology innovator Apple is moving away from its PowerPC machines in favor of new Intel processors.

Dell continued to nail down the top spot with 17.2 percent market share, followed by HP with 15.7 percent. According to IDC, the remaining firms in the top five are: Lenovo with 7.2 percent, Acer, 5.4 percent; and Fujitsu/Fujitsu Siemens, 4.1 percent.

Gartner’s Mika Kitagawa said the professional replacement cycle has peaked. “Both small and midsize business and enterprise markets showed softness in demand,” said Kitagawa. “This slowdown was mainly driven by poor desk-based PC sales.”


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