HP and Apple were the biggest winners for the year; with Apple climbing into fifth and HP entering a virtual tie with Lenovo for #1

From smartphones to tablets, from in-car infotainment to smartwatches -- the modern consumer has a lot of ways to interact with friends and coworkers, get news, and perform other everyday duties all without touching a traditional PC.  Unsurprisingly that has led to a decline in PC sales and usage.

The IDC Group has released figures for 2014 and they show some good news for the traditional PC market (which includes laptops, desktops, and hybrids, but not tablets).  In 2014 PC sales dipped by an estimated 2.1 percent globally -- to 308.6 million total unit sales.  While that may sound like bad news, it actually was somewhat hopeful, marking a stabilization from the 10.0 percent plunge in unit sales seen in 2013.

Portable PCs (hybrids, laptops) showed "double digit" growth in the U.S., where as desktops saw a 10 percent drop in 2014.  In other words, while the death of the PC may be premature, desktop sales continue to plummet, kept on life support only by enterprise orders.

Bloomberg PC sales
PC sales appeared to stabilize, although desktop market share continues to decline as consumer shift to laptops. [Image Source: Bloomberg]

Q4 2014 was a great quarter for Apple, Inc. (AAPL) and Hewlett-Packard Comp. (HPQ).  Apple shipments grew 18.9 percent to 5.75 million units for the quarter -- enough to bump off Taiwan's slumping ASUSTek Computer Inc. (TPE:2357), who fell to sixth place.

HP, meanwhile had what IDC termed a "tremendous" quarter, seeing a major resurgence in U.S. sales.  HP in 2014 completed an important separation into two units, a move which decoupled the consumer electronics/PC team from the enterprise/server unit.

While technically in second place it's in a near-tie with the Lenvo Group Ltd. (HKG:0992) (who first passed HP to claim the top spot in sales back in 2012).  In the fourth quarter HP moved 15.88 million units globally, within 1 percent of the 16.05 million units sold by Lenovo.  HP is the top PC seller in the U.S. market, where it holds more than a 26 percent market share.  Globally it and Lenovo each about about a fifth (~20%) of the market.

HP Pavilion Touch
HP is tied with Lenovo for first place in global PC sales, as of Q4 2014.

Year-on-year Lenovo's growth slowed to 4.9 percent, although the Hong Kong, China-based computermaker did grow annual sales by 10 percent.

Third place Dell Inc. -- now private -- saw decent growth of 8.5 percent, with its strongest gains in the Chinese and American notebook markets.  Acer, Inc. (TPE:2353), meanwhile, saw a more anemic growth of 3.8 although it escaped the decline plaguing its local rival ASUSTek.  Acer's sales were boosted by strong sales of Chromebooks (i.e. the Chromebook 13), which use Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Chrome OS, a Windows and OS X challenger.

Hopes are high that PC sales in 2015 will continue to stabilize with the release of Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Windows 10.  Windows 10 is even expected to breathe a bit of life into the remaining ranks of desktop PCs.

Source: IDC

"It looks like the iPhone 4 might be their Vista, and I'm okay with that." -- Microsoft COO Kevin Turner

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