This was the seventh consecutive year that shipments showed a decline, but the fall was less steep than in the previous three years.
Shipments in the fourth quarter of 2018 were 68.6 million units, a decline of 4.3%, the company said, adding that all these figures were preliminary.
“Just when demand in the PC market started seeing positive results, a shortage of CPUs created supply chain issues," aid Mikako Kitagawa, senior principal analyst at Gartner.
“The impact from the CPU shortage affected vendors’ ability to fulfil demand created by business PC upgrades. We expect this demand will be pushed forward into 2019 if CPU availability improves.”
Kitagawa said political and economic uncertainties in some countries also dampened PC demand.
“There was even uncertainty in the US — where the overall economy has been strong — among vulnerable buyer groups, such as small and mid-size businesses. Consumer demand remained weak in the holiday season. Holiday sales are no longer a major factor driving consumer demand for PCs.”
Lenovo, HP Inc and Dell were the top three vendors, accounting for 63% of shipments in the fourth quarter, up from 59% in the corresponding quarter in 2017.
Lenovo was the top vendor in the quarter, moving ahead of HP Inc, with a major factor behind its rise being a joint venture with Fujitsu formed in May 2018.
The Chinese firm had a strong quarter in the US as well, marking a third straight quarter of double-digit year-over-year growth even though the overall market remained stagnant.
HP Inc experienced a decline in shipments during the fourth quarter after four consecutive quarters of growth, with drops in all key regions apart from the Asia-Pacific and Japan.
Dell had growth in EMEA and Japan but experienced a decline in Asia-Pacific and South America.
In the US, shipments were 14,2 million units in the fourth quarter, a 4.5% fall from the corresponding quarter in 2017, with four of six top vendors experiencing a decline. Lenovo's growth was above the US average, with Dell showing a small increase.
“The fourth quarter is typically a buying season for small office/home office (SOHO) and small business buyers in the US as they want to use up the untouched budget before the tax year ends,” said Kitagawa.
“Our early indicator showed that SOHO and small business buyers held off on some new PC purchases due to uncertainties around the political and economic conditions.”
Tables: courtesy Gartner