Worldwide PC shipments reached 89 million units in the first quarter of 2012, a 1.9 percent increase from Q1 2011, when shipments totaled 87.3 million units, according to preliminary results by Gartner. The figures beat Gartner’s earlier projections of a 1.2 percent decline for the quarter – but were mixed overall.

Rival researcher IDC, which has slightly different methodology, was also taken by surprise. In figures released yesterday it put the Q1 market rise at 2.3 percent – a major turnaround from IDC’s February projection of an 0.9 percent decline.

IDC put the better-than-expected result down to the widely tipped shortage of hard disk drives, due to Thai floods, being not as severe as originally forecast, with PC makers generally having better access to supplies than customers in the retail and distribution channels.

But despite the unexpected upswing, both researchers remain cautious about the situation. “Although PC vendors typically experience low consumer PC sales in the first quarter, Gartner’s preliminary results reveal worse-than-normal consumer PC shipment growth,” said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner. “The weak consumer PC demand is in part because of intensified competition for consumers’ budgets.

“Device vendors that focus on a limited product line will get only a small portion of the consumer wallet. Companies such as Apple can be clear winners because of their comprehensive product/service offerings, which gain a large part of consumers’ spending.”

IDC’s Loren Loverde was looking on a brighter side ahead, however. “History has shown that periods of slower growth are followed by recovery as improving technologies make replacements, as well as new purchases, increasingly compelling,” said Loverde.

“As a result, we expect PC shipments to pick up significantly by the fourth quarter and beyond as HDD supply and pricing are normalised, Windows 8 is launched, and replacements pick up.”

Hewlett-Packard increased its market share slightly as global leader, scoring 17.2 percent of worldwide PC shipments in the first quarter according to Garter, 18 percent as IDC saw it.  H-P was able to secure hard drive inventory, unlike Q4 2011 when it was faced with shortages, said Gartner.

Lenovo was  a big winner, finishing No 2 globally with 13.4 percent of the action, up 43 percent in terms of shipments, and finishing the quarter with a 13pc market share to overtake Dell on 11.6 percent, according to IDC.  Acer and Asus filled out the top five.

In the US, it was quite a different story, with Apple rather than Lenovo at No 3 with 10 percent of the action, following a 4 percent growth in shipments. Toshiba, down 19 percent in shipments, was No 4, followed by Acer. Lenovo still doesn’t make the top five in the US.

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