Shipments of personal computers fell 3.9 percent in the third quarter, a narrower decline from earlier this year as the industry tries to free itself from a multiyear slump, market researcher IDC said.
PC makers shipped 68 million machines globally in the period, down from 70.7 million a year earlier, IDC said Tuesday in a statement. The report follows a worldwide decline of 4.1 percent in the second quarter. Unit sales in the US rose 1.7 percent, a second consecutive quarterly gain.
The PC market is starting to level off after four consecutive years of declines, as consumers and businesses begin to replace their aging machines. The industry is beginning to build up inventory ahead of the crucial holiday shopping season, placing bets that updated computers will spur better sales.
"We are very pleased to see some improvement in the market," said Loren Loverde, IDC's vice president, worldwide PC trackers & forecasting. "Industry efforts to update products to leverage new processors and operating systems" have been critical, he said.
Gartner Inc. was more pessimistic in its third-quarter report on PC shipments, showing a decline of 5.7 percent globally from a year earlier and little change in the US Sluggish demand during the back-to-school season and poor sales in some overseas markets dragged down the results, the researcher said.
"In emerging markets, PC penetration is low, but consumers are not keen to own PCs," Mikako Kitagawa, an analyst at Gartner, said in a statement. "Consumers in emerging markets primarily use smartphones or tablets for their computing needs, and they don't find the need to use a PC as much as consumers in mature markets."
The reports came after Intel, the key provider of chips for the computer market, raised its forecast for third-quarter sales last month. It cited signs of "replenishment of PC supply chain inventory," and "seeing some signs of improving PC demand."
Globally, China-based Lenovo kept its perch atop the industry with 21.3 percent of the market in the third quarter, IDC said. No. 2 HP jumped to 21.2 percent while No. 3 Dell grabbed 15.8 percent - with both of the US brands adding 1.5 percentage points from the year-ago period. No. 4 Apple had 7.4 percent of the market, down from 8.1 percent a year earlier.
In US shipments, the top three providers gained market share, according to IDC. HP was No. 1 with almost 30 percent while Dell had 26 percent and Lenovo had 15 percent. No. 4 Apple also lost ground in its home market, falling to 11.8 percent from 13.9 percent.
PC shipments were bolstered by strength from Google-backed Chromebooks in the education segment, along with a build up of inventory, IDC said. Still, the outlook is "cautious" for the fourth quarter, the researcher said.
Shipments to other areas, such as Asia, were better than forecast, IDC said. Japan's market returned to positive growth in the quarter, fueled by demand for Windows systems.