Dell can thank iPad for push over Acer

Dell regains second place in global PC market after Acer gets thrashing from tablets

Sales of Apple's iPad battered Acer's netbook and notebook sales so badly that Dell was able to regain its second-place position in the global PC market.

Dell, which had fallen behind Acer to third place, came back in the fourth quarter of 2010, according to a report Thursday from market tracker iSuppli. Analysts credited Dell's gain to the company's strong sales in the enterprise market, as well as the iPad and other tablets hammering the consumer netbook market.

"A little more than one year after a prolonged decline in shipments caused Dell to lose its customary second-place ranking to rival Acer, Dell now seems to have regained a firm hold on the No. 2 rank," said Matthew Wilkins, a principal analyst at iSuppli, in a statement. "Acer in the third quarter of 2009 had surged to the No. 2 spot on the strength of its strong sales of netbook PCs to consumers and a generally buoyant consumer market. However, with momentum for consumer PCs waning and in light of growing competition from media tablets, Acer's gains have been reversed."

ISuppli noted that Dell's fourth-quarter sales were flat compared to the third quarter's. What pushed Dell ahead was a 12.9% drop in Acer's shipments quarter over quarter.

Hewlett-Packard, meanwhile, remains at the top of the worldwide PC market.

As far back as mid-2008, Acer was betting big on the netbook market, which had become a hot technology. While PC rivals HP and Dell also ventured into netbooks, Acer seemed to bet more heavily.

The problem for netbook makers is that tablets, and especially the über popular iPad, are clobbering the PC market.

Earlier this month, analysts at market research firm Gartner reported that consumers were losing interest in not only the smaller netbook, but also in their larger cousins, the laptop. Tablets are expected to have a large enough effect on the PC market that Gartner lowered its PC sales forecast for both 2011 and 2012.

For the past several years, the PC market has been driven by consumer and enterprise demand for the laptop. However, with this drop in interest for laptops, the PC market now is boosted by the faithful old desktop.

"Desktop sales in the fourth quarter were buoyed by strong corporate demand," Wilkins said. "The corporate PC segment continues to outperform the consumer market as companies replace systems with newer, faster, more efficient computers."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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