HP has lost its title as the world's biggest PC vendor after new quarterly figures from analyst group Gartner showed that it had been overtaken by rival Lenovo.
According to Gartner's figures, Lenovo edged ahead in the third quarter with a market share of 15.7 per cent compared to HP's 15.5 per cent. However, Gartner's rival IDC had HP just clinging on to top spot.
According to Gartner, Lenovo shipped just under 13.77 million PCs in the third quarter of 2012, some 200,000 more units than HP at 13.55 million. For HP, that represented a decline in sales of 16.4 per cent compared to the same quarter in 2011, when it sold 16.2 million PCs and enjoyed a comfortable 17 per cent global market share.
The total global PC market declined by 8.3 per cent, year-on-year, to 95.4 million units. However, this may be attributable to retailers and vendors holding back until the launch of Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system.
"The third quarter was also a transitional quarter before Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system release, so shipments were less vigorous as vendors and their channel partners liquidated inventory," said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner.
She added: "Retailers were conservative in placing orders as they responded to weak back-to-school sales. By the end of September, retailers were focused on clearing out inventory in advance of the Windows 8 launch. On the professional side, there was minimum impact from Windows 8 in the quarter because the professional market will not adopt Windows 8 PCs immediately after the release."
This is the first time that HP has lost market leadership in six years, according to Gartner. HP had acquired market leadership from its direct-sales rival Dell, which also suffered another decline in sales and market share in the third quarter. Third-placed Dell sold 9.2 million units to achieve a declining market share of 10.5 per cent. It's decline in sales nearly matched HP's, with overall unit sales down by 13.7 per cent.
Gartner's figures include desktop PCs and mobile PCs, including mini-notebooks, but not media tablets such as the Apple iPad.
Lenovo's success, however, has been achieved in part thanks to aggressive pricing, which has left it with razor thin margins. The company could therefore be badly affected by any new downturn in the global economy.
"In addition to acquiring other vendors, Lenovo has also taken an aggressive position on pricing, especially in the professional market," said Gartner in a statement.
The loss of market leadership caps more than a decade of malaise at HP that has seen it botch numerous expensive acquisitions, such as its $13.9bn (£8.7bn) takeover of services company EDS in 2008, its $1.2bn (£750m) purchase of Palm Computing in 2010 and, most recently, its 2011 $10.3bn (£6.4bn) acquisition of Autonomy, the Cambridge-based vendor of search software technology.
HP acquired EDS just as the global financial crisis was taking place, depressing demand for computer services in both private and public sectors. The takeover of Palm was intended to provide an operating system for mobile devices, but was engineered just as Apple iOS and Google Android were becoming the de facto standard in mobile phones and tablet computers.
And the purchase price of Autonomy was widely regarded as way too high and in the ensuing efforts to boost sales a number of key senior staff quit – including the company's charismatic founder Mike Lynch.