Global sales of personal computers reached 91.8 million units in the third quarter of 2011, a 3.2 percent increase from the same period last year according to a recent report from Gartner.

While the numbers were up over 2010, they were below Gartner's earlier projection for 5.1 percent growth. Gartner sales figures include desk-based PCs, mobile PCs, including mini-notebooks but not media tablets such as the iPad.

"The PC industry has been performing below normal seasonality," said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner. "As expected, back-to-school PC sales were disappointing in mature markets, confirming that the consumer PC market continues to be weak. The popularity of non-PC devices, including media tablets, such as the iPad and smartphones, took consumers' spending away from PCs.

The top seller in the quarter was Hewlett Packard which garnered at 17.7% market share by selling 16.2 million units. Lenovo became the second-largest PC vendor in the worldwide market for the first time by selling 12.3 million computers and grabbing a 13.5% share. Rounding out the top five were Dell (10.7 million), Acer (9.7 million) and Asus (5.7 million).

In the U.S., PC shipments bounced back a bit in the third quarter. Sales totaled 17.8 million units, a 1.1 percent increase from the third quarter of 2010. It was the U.S. PC market's first year-over-year growth for the first time in three quarters.

"The main contributor to the weak consumer PC market in the U.S. was intensified competition for consumers' money," Ms. Kitagawa said. "Media tablets and smartphones took center stage in the U.S. retail sector, and the expectation is for continuing demand for these devices throughout the holiday season."

Interestingly, Gartner says many PC vendors were banking on media tablets to boost their growth in the second half of 2011, but given the collapse of the non-Apple part of the media tablet market, most have refocused on getting PCs into retailers.

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