Worldwide shipments of personal computers registered a double-digit percentage increase in 2005, according to figures from two major market analysts.

Gartner estimated 218.5 million PCs were shipped in 2005 while IDC said it believes worldwide PC shipments totaled 208.6 million units. Both companies count desktops, mobile computers and x86-based servers in their figures and both said the data is provisional.

EMEA market surprise

"The general good news is that it's another strong quarter," said Loren Loverde, director of IDC's PC Tracker research. Despite long-standing concerns about weakening consumer PC sales, shipments have grown more than 17 per cent above 2004's totals for the past three quarters running, he said.

The Europe, Middle East and Africa region (EMEA) came out on top of Gartner's regional ranking for the first time to become the largest PC market worldwide. Shipments in EMEA totaled 72.6 million in 2005, a 17.1 per cent jump on 2004 and several million units ahead of the US market, which was estimated to have seen 67.2 million shipments in the year. US market growth was pegged at 7.5 per cent, which was well below the worldwide average of 15.3 per cent.

Gartner believes the replacement cycle for corporate desktop PCs has peaked in the US, with across-the-board softness showing in the fourth-quarter. However, mobile PC growth was steady, especially in the SMB (small and medium business) market.

Far East on the rise

However EMEA was not the best performing region in terms of growth. That crown was shared by Asia Pacific (excluding Japan) and Latin America, both of which saw 26 per cent growth during the year, said Gartner. Factors propelling growth included strong fourth quarter demand in China, the expansion of PC sales beyond major cities in India and overall strong demand in Latin America. IDC did not release geographical shipment data.

Dell was ranked the top PC vendor by both companies.

Gartner estimated Dell shipped 36.8 million machines for a 16.8 per cent market share and IDC estimated shipments of 37.8 million PCs for a 18.1 per cent share (see table). Its growth for the entire year was above the industry average, at 18.6 per cent versus the industry-wide 15.3 per cent, but it has been slowing down during the year and in the fourth quarter only slightly exceeded industry growth, said Gartner. Dell saw particularly strong business in international markets, said IDC.

Second-ranked HP recorded growth just under the industry average said both companies and remained a couple of percentage market share points behind Dell.

The year was good on Lenovo Group, which finished as the number three largest PC vendor according to both Gartner and IDC. Both companies ranked Taiwan's Acer as number four and Japan's Fujitsu as number five.

IDC thinks PC shipment growth will slow this year - it's forecasting growth of just over 10 per cent. However, 2005's total was stronger than IDC initially forecast, and Loverde said he won't be surprised if that pattern repeats.

"We're not formally upping the forecast yet, but there's definitely good indicators going into 2006," he said. "We've got a couple of vendors like Acer and Apple that are growing quite rapidly."