Source AP ©

Computer shipments grow at fastest rate in nearly two years

Computer shipments have grown high, raising expectations for another strong performance in the year's final months.

Sales of portable computers drove much of the 15.5 percent increase in global PC shipments between July and October, especially in Europe, according to research firm IDC, based in Framingham, Massachusetts. IDC reported 66.9 million PCs shipped, up from 57.9 million a year ago.

"The appeal of portable PCs in all regions continues to propel the PC market at a remarkable pace and sets the stage for a very strong fourth quarter," said Loren Loverde, director of IDC's worldwide quarterly PC tracker.

Stamford, Connecticut-based Gartner Inc. pegged the growth at a slightly slower 14.4 percent, with 68.5 million PCs shipped in the third quarter, up from 59.8 million in the same period a year ago.

The two research firms use slightly different measurement methods.

The percentage gains reported by both firms were the largest for any quarter since the fourth quarter of 2005, when IDC recorded a 15.5 percent increase - the same rate as the latest quarter - and Gartner came in at 15.8 percent. The last time IDC reported a faster rate was in the third quarter of 2005, when growth was 17.4 percent.

Based on the latest quarter's performance, IDC likely will slightly increase a fourth-quarter forecast it offered early last month predicting fourth-quarter PC shipment growth of 13.5 percent, Loverde said.

Gartner said gains for mobile PCs once again outpaced overall computer shipments in the U.S. But both the home and professional markets in the U.S. posted weaker-than-expected growth - apparently because of lower consumer confidence and the housing market slump, Gartner said.

U.S. PC shipment growth came was 4.7 percent in the latest quarter, according to Gartner, compared with 23 percent in the Asia-Pacific region and 16 percent in a market that includes Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The softness in the U.S. leads Charles Smulders, a Gartner vice president, to take a bit more cautious view of the fourth-quarter global outlook than IDC does.

Smulders said the third-quarter numbers bode for a strong fourth quarter, but Gartner is sticking for now with a forecast issued last month that predicts 12.3 percent global PC shipment growth for the year overall.

"There still seems to be some uncertainty about how the fourth quarter will pan out," Smulders said. "Some of the U.S. consumer confidence figures only add to the uncertainty."

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