After a several years of strong growth, the PC market is downshifting to a slower, but hopefully steady, growth path, according to Gartner analysts.
Gartner late Wednesday reported that global PC shipments surpassed 85.2 million units in the second quarter of 2011, up 2.3% from the same quarter last year.
The consulting firm had earlier projected second quarter PC sales would grow by 6.7%.
"After strong growth in shipments of consumer PCs for four years, driven by strong demand for mini-notebooks and low-priced consumer notebooks, the market is shifting to modest, but steady growth," said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner, in a statement. "The slow overall growth indicates that the PC market is still in a period of adjustment, which began in the second half of 2010."
Last month, IDC had lowered its projections for the worldwide PC market, citing a drop in demand for tablet computers, a sluggish economy and a first quarter slowdown.
The big news in Gartner's report is that Dell passed Acer to take over the second place position in the global PC market behind perennial leader Hewlett-Packard.
It's the first time Dell has held the second-place spot in Gartner's rankings since the fourth quarter of 2008. Gartner credits Dell's investment in enterprise PC feature upgrades for its improvement.
Lenovo held the third largest market share in the quarter as its worldwide shipments grew by 22.5%, the best resuts of the top-tier PC vendors.
Meanwhile, Acer fell from the number two market share spot to the number four position in the second quarter, according to the Gartner report. "Acer's problems stemmed from its low-price, high-volume business model, which is no longer effective," Gartner reported.
Market leader HP accounted for 17.4% of global shipments in the second quarter. Gartner said HP saw "solid growth" in the enterprise market, but is facing challenges in its consumer PC business.
Gartner also noted that the burgeoning tablet market, which includes the highly popular Apple iPad, continues to batter the PC business, especially in the U.S.
U.S. PC shipments totaled 16.9 million units Q2 2011, which Gartner says is a 5.6% decline from the second quarter of 2010. The consulting firm blamed a weak consumer PC market.
"Given the hype around media tablets such as the iPad, retailers were very conservative in placing orders for PCs," said Kitagawa. "Instead, they wanted to secure space for media tablets. Some PC vendors had to lower their inventory through promotions, while others slimmed their product lines at retailers."
She added that the enterprise is a bright spot in the U.S.
"Large enterprises were in the middle of their refreshment purchase period, which started last year," Kitagawa said. "Small and midsize businesses were also at the peak of their refreshment periods."
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 email@example.com.