The global personal-computer industry unexpectedly grew in the first quarter, marking a turnaround after the sluggish European economy and component supply shortages had dragged down the market last year.
PC shipments climbed 1.9 percent to 89 million units, compared with predictions for a 1.2 percent drop, according to Stamford, Connecticut-based Gartner Inc. Another research firm, IDC, also reported a surprise increase for the quarter.
The growth signaled the PC market is shaking off the effects of Europe’s debt crisis and a disk-drive shortage stemming from last year’s flooding in Thailand. Still, a scarcity of drives made it harder for PC sellers to run aggressive promotions and attract lower-end shoppers, Gartner found. Many consumers also are turning more to other types of devices, such as smartphones and tablets.
“The consumer segment continued to be a drag on market growth, as PC demand was low,” Mikako Kitagawa, an analyst at Gartner, said in a statement.
The increase in PC shipments signals the industry may “pick up significantly” by the end of the year, Loren Loverde, an analyst at Framingham, Massachusetts-based IDC, said in a separate report.
PC makers will benefit from supplies of disk drives returning to normal and Microsoft Corp. releasing a new version of its Windows operating system, IDC said.
“History has shown that periods of slower growth are followed by recovery,” Loverde said.
Hewlett-Packard Co. remained the market leader in the first quarter, accounting for 17.2 percent of worldwide PC shipments, Gartner said. Lenovo Group Ltd., Dell Inc., Acer Inc. and Asustek Computer Inc. rounded out the top five. Apple Inc. ranked third in the U.S., behind Hewlett-Packard and Dell.
Europe, the Middle East and Africa exceeded projections, with PC shipments in the region climbing 6.7 percent, while Asia performed worse than estimated, Gartner said. U.S. shipments fell 3.5 percent, a smaller drop than forecast.
Last year, the U.S. PC market declined for the first time in a decade, hurt by sluggish consumer spending, supply shortages, and the popularity of smartphones and tablets.