Researchers Gartner and IDC released their latest market results Wednesday, reporting growth rates of 22.1% and 15.2%, respectively. Gartner, whose results are preliminary, pegged shipments at 90 million units, while IDC said shipments rose to 85.8 million units.
For all of 2009, shipments increased 2.3% from 2008 to 294.2 million units, according to IDC. Gartner reported 5.2% growth to 305.9 million units.
The rise in shipments in the fourth quarter solidified a comeback that started in the third quarter following a weak first half of the year. The United States was a major contributor to the strength of the market in the fourth quarter. U.S. shipments rose 26.5% year-over-year to 19.8 million units, according to Gartner, and 24% to 20.7 million units, according to IDC.
Worldwide, shipments in the fourth quarter grew in the double digits for the first time since the third quarter of 2008, according to IDC. In the United State, the growth rate was the highest in the last seven years, Gartner said.
While the increase in shipments was good news for the industry, it came at a high price. Manufacturers sacrificed profits to focus on selling "good-enough" PCs at discounted prices in order to hang on to market share. To boost profit margins in the future, manufacturers are left with the difficult task of delivering a feature set compelling enough to lure consumers into paying more for beefier PCs.
"Without an effective strategy to convey a clear usage model and feature set tied to each segment, the market will inevitably continue down the slippery slope of good-enough computing sold to the lowest bidder," IDC analyst Jay Chou said in a statement.
The analyst firms had the same worldwide vendor rankings based on shipments in the fourth quarter. Hewlett-Packard remained at the top, followed, respectively, by Acer, Dell, Lenovo and Toshiba. Acer had toppled Dell from the number two perch in the third quarter.
In the United States, HP remained number one in the fourth quarter, followed by Dell, Acer, Toshiba and Apple, which had been number four in the third quarter, followed by Toshiba, according to both research firms.
For the full year, HP, Dell and Acer held the same positions in terms of U.S. shipments, while Apple was number four followed by Toshiba, according to IDC.