Global PC shipments grew strongly in the first quarter, research companies Gartner and IDC reported on Wednesday.

Shipments in the quarter increased 13.1 per cent from a year earlier, driven by growth in emerging markets and among consumers in more mature markets, Gartner said. IDC reported worldwide growth of 12.9 per cent, surpassing the company's March forecast of an 11.8 per cent gain.

Unit shipments of desktop and portable PCs and x86 servers totaled 57.1 million worldwide in the quarter, up from 50.5 million in the first quarter of 2005, according to preliminary numbers from Gartner. IDC counted 53.2 million shipments worldwide, up from 47.1 million in last year's first quarter.

Dell sees slow going

Dell retained its status as the top volume vendor but posted unit growth of just 10.2 per cent, its weakest performance since the third quarter of 2001, Gartner said. HP, its closest rival, narrowed the gap as its shipments grew 22.5 per cent. Dell had a market share of 16.5 per cent to HP's 14.9 per cent. Lenovo was third in worldwide sales, Acer fourth and Fujitsu fifth, according to the company.

Dell's shipments in the quarter were almost flat in the US as overall shipments in the country grew 7.4 per cent, Gartner reported. It was the first time Dell had posted a growth rate below the market average, according to Gartner. The consumer market was Dell's weak point, it said. IDC reported US growth of 5.3 per cent year over year, below an earlier forecast of 6.7 per cent.

EMEA comes of age

The biggest growth in the quarter was in the Asia-Pacific region, where shipments were up 24.6 per cent, and Latin America, which posted 22.9 per cent growth, according to Gartner. Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) was the largest market, with shipments of about 19.1 million, and shipments there grew 12.6 per cent. Some vendors had projected a stronger quarter in the region, according to Gartner.

In the US, consumer demand for desktop PCs was a major growth driver as total shipments hit 16.4 million. Renewed price competition boosted desktop demand.

AMD continued to gain on Intel, which it has now done for seven quarters, Gartner said.