FRAMINGHAM, MA –Worldwide shipments of traditional PCs (desktop, notebook, and workstation) totaled 70.6 million units in the fourth quarter of 2017, up 0.7% year-over-year, according to the International Data Corp.

Fourth quarter results validate the view of a steadying, albeit still weak, traditional PC market, buoyed mainly by commercial upgrades and pockets of improving consumer PC demand, says IDC.

2017 ended with an annual shipment volume of 259.5 million units, down 0.2% compared to 2016. This makes 2017 the most stable year the market has seen since 2011, the research firm says.

Although the situation improved as the year progressed, the shortage of key components such as SSD (solid state drives) acted as a major driver of shipments for much of 2017, with top PC companies vying to lock up supply ahead of price increases and thus boost orders. In response to the contracting tablet market, companies also returned their focus to the notebook market, shifting the product mix to appeal to key user segments and expanding the number of slim, convertible, and gaming systems.

From a geographic perspective, the emerging regions were helped by a more favorable comparison against the tough market conditions in 2016, with Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan) (APeJ) and Latin America both producing positive fourth quarter results. The US remained a challenging market, while Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) was stable, and Japan continued to make steady gains with its sixth consecutive quarter of year-over-year growth.

"The fourth quarter results showed some potentially encouraging headway against the difficult environment in retail and consumer PCs," said Jay Chou, research manager with IDC's Personal Computing Device Tracker. "Enticed by a growing array of products that promise all-day battery life, high portability, and address emerging use cases that require more compute power, pockets of the consumer base are taking a serious look at these revamped PCs. However, the overall PC market remains a challenging one."

"The solid holiday consumer sales provided enough momentum for the PC market to stabilize a bit further," said Neha Mahajan, senior research analyst, Devices & Displays. "However, the growing popularity of other mobile form factors continued to have a dampening effect and led the overall US PC market to perform below expectations."

The US market experienced a decline in shipments in the fourth quarter, with a drop in both notebook and desktop sales, despite reports of a strong holiday quarter, says IDC. Overall, total PC shipments for the fourth quarter stood at 16.5 million units.

The EMEA traditional PC market continued to gain strength, thanks to notebook growth from ongoing and accelerating mobility adoption. In addition to being a traditionally strong quarter in the consumer segment, fourth quarter shipments in the commercial space were strong, particularly driven by renewal projects that were postponed earlier. The fast approach of the compliance deadline for general data protection regulation in Europe and several reports of cyber security breaches made security a strong priority in the hardware refresh cycle among enterprises.

The APeJ traditional PC market came in above IDC's forecast during the quarter. Good demand for gaming PCs and strong sales during the Singles Day promotion drove more shipments in the consumer PC market in China. In the ASEAN region, channel loading and promotions led to higher than expected sell-in in the Philippines and Indonesia. Elsewhere, weakening consumer spending after the Diwali festival impacted shipments in India.

The Japan traditional PC market exceeded IDC's forecast by a comfortable margin, achieving year-over-year growth of 3.8% versus the forecast of a 2.9% decline in shipments. The commercial segment seems to be driving this growth due to rising demand from Windows 10 migration.

HP pulled further ahead as the top company, maintaining its lead through every quarter of 2017. Shipments grew 8.3% compared to a year ago for the seventh consecutive quarter of positive growth, and volume hit more than 16 million units for the first time since the third quarter of 2011. HP further consolidated its position in the US market, growing its market share to 34%.

Lenovo was the number two company with a flat quarter compared to the fourth quarter of 2016. It continued to weather tough conditions in the US as it works through management transitions and channel changes. Outside of the US, Lenovo made solid gains, growing 3.9% year-over-year, with solid notebook shipments during the quarter.

Dell held the third position, posting year-over-year growth of 0.7% and shipping more than 11 million units for the first time in 2017. Competition in the US market remained tough for the company, as its US share and growth both suffered. Elsewhere the company saw solid numbers.

Apple remained in the fourth position and grew its shipments 7.3% in the fourth quarter.

ASUS and Acer finished the fourth quarter in a statistical tie for fifth position. ASUS saw its shipments decline 11.2% year-over-year. Meanwhile, Acer's focus on gaming PCs and related products, as well its presence in Chromebooks, helped it close the gap with ASUS, despite a year-over-year decline in shipments.

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