Worldwide PC shipments totalled 80.8 million units in the fourth quarter of 2014 (4Q14), representing a year-on-year decline of -2.4 per cent for the industry.
Led by Lenovo, the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker reports that total shipments were slightly above expectations of -4.8% growth, but the market still contracted both year on year and in comparison to the third quarter.
Although the holiday quarter saw shipment volume inch above 80 million for the first time in 2014, the final quarter nonetheless marked the end of yet another difficult year – the third consecutive year with overall volumes declining.
On an annual basis, 2014 shipments totalled 308.6 million units, down -2.1 per cent from the prior year.
Regionally speaking, the Asia/Pacific market, including New Zealand, continued to strengthen, seeing only a very slight increase in volume as a number of public projects and improving consumer demand helped stabilise the market.
Similarly, commercial demand, which boosted growth earlier in the year, has slowed while consumer demand is gradually coming back.
Nevertheless, the market progress has been fuelled by low-priced systems, including growth of Chromebooks and promotion of Windows 8 + Bing.
Constraints on Bing promotions however, such as limits on larger-sized devices, could remove a key market driver while some fourth quarter production was attributed to getting ahead of holiday-related production constraints in Asia in the first quarter, effectively shifting volume from early 2015 into the end of 2014.
"The strength from market leaders, as well as improvement in Asia/Pacific and the consumer market more generally, are positive signs for the PC market," says Loren Loverde, IDC Vice President, Worldwide PC Tracker.
"Growth of Chrome, Bing, all-in-ones, ultraslim, convertibles, and touch systems similarly make PCs more compelling and competitive.
“Nevertheless, some of the gains are relatively small, and weakening drivers like Bing promotions and end of XP support transitions, cast a shadow of doubt on the strength of the market going into 2015."
Nevertheless the region, which excludes Japan, continued to stabilise with growth rising to positive territory following several years of significant declines.
HP had a strong recovery from recent quarters, while Dell continued to gain share. Slowing growth in tablets and smartphones as well as promotions of lower-priced Windows 8 + Bing systems helped relieve some pressure on the PC market.
Across the board, Lenovo continued to push hard in EMEA, expanding channels and capturing consumer holiday demand.
The company also outpaced the market in the US – though by a smaller margin – and was closer to market growth in other regions.
Shipments reached a record 16 million units in 4Q14 with year-on-year growth of 4.9 per cent, and annual shipments up over 10 per cent from last year.
HP also saw a tremendous quarter with 15.9 million units and year on year growth surpassing 15 per cent - a particularly strong quarter in the US was a key driver, along with some volume for public projects in Asia/Pacific and Africa.
Meanwhile, Dell shipped over 10.8 million units growing 8.5 per cent on the year, much of it based on a strong performance in notebooks in the U.S. and APeJ while rising growth in APeJ also helped offset slowing growth in the US and Europe.
Further down the vendor list Acer grew over 3 per cent, in part due to low volume a year ago but also from the success of its Chromebooks and entry-level notebooks.
Finally, Apple kept the number 5 position on a worldwide basis, maintaining its lead over ASUS.
According to IDC, the company's steady growth, along with recent price cuts and improved demand in mature markets, has helped it to consistently outgrow the market.