Windows upgrades, Chromebooks slow PC market bleeding in Q2

The market reached its healthiest point in two years, but is still in decline, IDC finds

Lenovo led the top 5 PC vendors in worldwide shipments for the second quarter of 2014, as total shipments suffered a slight drop.

Lenovo led the top 5 PC vendors in worldwide shipments for the second quarter of 2014, as total shipments suffered a slight drop.

Upgrades from Windows XP PCs to newer computers during the second quarter perked up the PC market, which inched closer to positive quarterly shipment growth.

PC shipments worldwide totaled 74.4 million in the second quarter, declining 1.7 percent compared to the same quarter a year ago, research firm IDC said Wednesday. IDC in May predicted a decline of 7.1 percent for the second quarter.

The results were surprising considering the research firm had predicted declines or flat shipments until 2018, said Jay Chou, senior research analyst at IDC.

"With the fact that we're seeing a good second quarter, that obviously means we're going to revise our short-term outlook," Chou said.

Businesses and consumers are showing more interest in buying PCs, but a few quarters of strong shipment numbers are needed to conclusively say the PC market is rebounding, Chou said.

A lot of growth was driven by businesses upgrading from old PCs running Windows XP, which is not supported by Microsoft. Companies are buying PCs with Windows 7 or Windows 8 with the OS downgrade option, Chou said.

Home users have less of a need to upgrade from XP, Chou said. They are buying less expensive laptops with Windows 8 and some are turning to Chromebooks, which are lightweight and offer good battery life. Google also aims Chromebooks in part at those who need XP PC replacements.

Shipments of Chromebooks, which have Google's Linux-based Chrome OS, will grow as they become more widely available globally.

"We do think that there's a good niche for Chromebooks," Chou said.

The top three PC makers -- Lenovo, Hewlett-Packard and Dell -- recorded double-digit growth in worldwide PC shipments during the second quarter. Acer was the only PC maker in the top five with a decline.

Lenovo increased its market share to 19.6 percent by shipping 14.56 million units during the quarter, growing 15.1 percent compared to the same quarter a year ago. Hewlett-Packard shipped 13.64 million PCs, growing 10.2 percent, with a market share of 18.3 percent. Dell's worldwide PC shipments grew 13.2 percent to 10.4 million units, a market share of 14 percent.

Acer's shipments declined 2.5 percent to 6.12 million units, which is an improvement over many previous quarters, IDC said. Acer has gone through multiple management changes in the last year, creating some instability, but the company is now rebounding.

Fifth-placed Asustek took advantage of Acer's instability, with PC shipments growing 3.3 percent year-over-year to 4.61 million units. Asus is exploiting the void left by Sony's exit from the PC market, Chou said.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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