HP, Lenovo battle for top spot in PC market

IDC has Gartner holding onto its top position, but Gartner calls the win for Lenovo

After years as the top PC maker in the world, Hewlett-Packard may be pushed aside by a quick-moving Lenovo.

It's no longer clear which company sits at the top of the rankings for the PC industry.

Two industry analyst firms rated the top players on Wednesday and has HP maintaining its top position, while another has Lenovo grabbing the lead spot for the first time in the company's history.

China-based Lenovo edged out HP with 15.7% of the global PC market compared to 15.5%, said a report from industry analyst firm Gartner. That's a big advance for Lenovo, which held 13.1% of the market a year ago, while HP was holding at a lofty 17%.

However, IDC reported that HP retained its long-held leadership position with 15.9% of the global PC market, compared to Lenovo's 15.7% for the third quarter.

Both reports have Dell in third place, with Gartner reporting that the company has 10.5% of the market and IDC reporting that it has 10.8%. And both analyst firms have Acer Group in fourth place and ASUS in the fifth spot.

Regardless of whether HP or Lenovo is in the top spot, it's a tough race and one that HP is struggling with.

"On Lenovo's side, things must be pretty sweet," said Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT. "It wasn't that long ago that people were dismissing the company as a lightweight wannabe." King adds: "Proving detractors wrong is satisfying but to maintain its new leadership position the company will have to keep on with what it has been doing -- blending solid value with innovative new design points."

Gartner noted that Lenovo was smart to take an aggressive position on pricing, especially in the professional market. That helped the company achieve big market share gains over the last two years, exceeding regional average growth rates across all regions.

As for HP, slipping out of the top spot may sting but it's not devastating, King said.

"It's a bigger deal symbolically than in any business sense," he said. "HP has been on top for so long that some will consider this a major disaster. But let's face it, PCs are HP's lowest margin business so while any reduction of share is somewhat painful, it isn't the end of the world."

Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group, said some of HP's problems may stem from its lack of business focus. "Focused companies seem to be doing much better of late than those that are very diverse," he said. "HP's massive breadth makes it very hard to focus."

So, can HP reinvigorate its PC division and get back into a dominant position in the market?

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, said the company can do it but the real question is if they want to put the effort into doing it.

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