Worldwide personal-computer shipments fell in the third quarter, reaching their lowest level for the period since 2008, amid lackluster demand from students returning to school, market researcher Gartner Inc. said.

In the sixth consecutive quarterly decline, global unit sales fell 8.6 percent to 80.3 million, Gartner said yesterday in a statement. Growth in the U.S., where shipments climbed 3.5 percent, helped make up for weak volume in other regions, the Stamford, Connecticut-based firm said.

Lenovo Group Ltd. maintained its No. 1 spot in the worldwide market, followed by Hewlett-Packard Co., which was the top seller in the U.S. PC makers haven’t rolled out new products capable of winning back consumers who have been migrating to cheaper tablets to connect to the Internet, Gartner said. Consumer demand typically rises in the third quarter, boosted by back-to-school purchases.

“Consumers’ shift from PCs to tablets for daily content consumption continued to decrease the installed base of PCs both in mature as well as in emerging markets,” Mikako Kitagawa, an analyst at Gartner, said in the statement. “A greater availability of inexpensive Android tablets attracted first-time consumers in emerging markets, and as supplementary devices in mature markets.”

Replacement Delay

Researcher IDC, which also released its third-quarter PC rankings yesterday, said the global market shrank 7.6 percent to 81.6 million units, compared with its earlier prediction for a 9.5 percent contraction. Business purchases and a boost from a coming update to Microsoft Corp.’s Windows 8 operating system accounted for the smaller-than-projected decline, IDC said in a statement.

“The third quarter was pretty close to forecast, which unfortunately doesn’t reflect much improvement in the PC market, or potential for near-term growth,” Loren Loverde, an analyst at Framingham, Massachusetts-based IDC, said in the statement. “The third-quarter results suggest that there’s still a high probability that we will see another decline in worldwide shipments in 2014.” Shipments fell in 2012, and IDC forecasts a 9.7 drop in unit sales this year.

Beijing-based Lenovo held a 17.6 percent market share worldwide, helped by a 2.8 percent increase in shipments, Gartner said. Hewlett-Packard retained its No. 2 spot after a 1.5 percent gain in unit sales, giving it a 17.1 percent share. Dell Inc. came in third with a 11.6 percent slice of the market, and a 1 percent jump in third-quarter shipments. Taiwan’s Acer Inc. and Asustek Computer Inc. both posted shipment declines of more than 20 percent, Gartner said.

While sales in the U.S. may have “passed the worst declining stage,” according to Gartner’s Kitagawa, other regions posted double-digit percentage drops. Asia-Pacific shipments fell 11.2 percent, while Europe, Middle East and Africa slid 13.7 percent, Gartner said.

(Source: Bloomberg)