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Apple's share of US PC market slips to 8% at hands of Acer

Apple's share of the US computer market fell to 8 percent during the fourth calendar quarter of 2008 from 9.5 percent in the third as the Mac maker surrendered its third place ranking to surging netbook maker Acer, according to market research firm Gartner.

Preliminary data released by the firm Wednesday shows Mac growth to have slowed to 8.3 percent during the three-month period ending December, representing 1.225 million Macs shipped domestically. Apple has still gained a over a point in market share on a yearly basis, shipping 96,000 more systems than it did during the fourth quarter of 2007. However, its performance is down from quarter to quarter with 29.4 percent growth during the September quarter, when it reportedly shipped 1.645 million units to Americans.

Still, Apple is one of just three top-tier PC vendors in the US who would have seen positive growth during the quarter based on Gartner's data. Toshiba has shipped just over a million systems stateside to boost its share of US market to 6.5 percent, representing 12 percent yearly growth. Meanwhile, netbook maker Acer is expected to have had its unit shipments surge over 55 percent in the fall to propel its share to 15.2 percent from summer's 8.8 percent while reclaiming its third place ranking from Apple.

Market leaders Dell and HP retained their respective positions atop the market, though both saw a yearly decline in unit shipments. Dell shipped 4.465 million systems domestically, a decline of 16.4 percent that pushed its share of the market down to 28.6 percent from 30.8 percent. HP remained a close second, shipping 4.288 million units. Although its unit shipments fell 3.4 percent on a yearly basis, HP still managed to boost its share of the market to 27.5 percent, up from 25.7 percent during the September quarter and 25.6 percent from the year-ago quarter.

Preliminary U.S. PC Vendor Unit Shipment Estimates for 4Q08 (Thousands of Units) | Source: Gartner

And these companies weren't alone on the international stage.  The worldwide PC industry suffered its worst growth rate since 2002 during the fourth quarter as worldwide shipments totaled 78.1 million units, a mere 1.1 percent increase from the fourth quarter of 2007, according to Gartner.

"The United States experienced steeper than expected shipment declines due to the recession. The Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region was also affected by the economic slow down across key countries," said analyst Mika Kitagawa. "Asia/Pacific recorded the worst shipment growth since Gartner started its PC statistics research. Latin America met expectations, but its growth was much lower than in the past."

The lone growth driver for the 2008 holiday PC season was the mini-notebook segment, according to Kitagawa, who noted that the mini-notebook segment outpaced overall mobile PC growth as more and more vendors offered creative sales promotions. This, however, has to record declines in worldwide PC revenues as customers opt for cheaper systems.

Q3 Worldwide PC results
Preliminary Worldwide PC Vendor Unit Shipment Estimates for 4Q08 (Thousands of Units) | Source: Gartner

Hewlett-Packard managed to grow above the worldwide average in the fourth quarter to maintain its first-place worldwide ranking; however, its year-on-year growth was its lowest since its merger with Compaq in 2003. For its part, runner up Dell showed strong growth in Asia/Pacific but struggled to increase shipment volume in North America and EMEA.

Meanwhile, number 3 Acer continued to show staggering growth with worldwide PC shipments growing 31.1 percent, driven by low priced mini-notebooks like its Aspire One netbook in addition to low-cost systems through much of its lineup.  Lenovo maintained the fourth position in the worldwide market but suffered a shipment decline for the first time since 2006, while Toshiba grew faster than the worldwide average by heavily targeting the consumer market.

Apple does not rank amongst the top 5 PC vendors worldwide, and hence no data was reported for the company in the global demographic.

For the year, worldwide PC shipments totaled 302.2 million units, a 10.9 percent increase from 2007.

Gartner's previous reports for PC market share over earlier parts of 2008 are available below: