We don't often summarize market share in one word, but: ouch. Both Gartner and IDC have trotted out their preliminary estimates for PC market share in the third quarter, and the two agree that this summer was a dire one for the traditional computer. Outside of ASUS and Lenovo, whose price-focused strategies and key acquisitions kept them ahead of rivals, virtually every major vendor saw its PC shipments collapse versus a year ago, often by more than 10 percent. Total worldwide shipments declined by more than 8 percent in either estimate -- enough to make a flat second quarter seem rosy by comparison. Lenovo took the top spot in Gartner's study, although IDC is counting workstations and kept HP in its usual lead.
As for the US, it's almost better that we don't look. Gartner and IDC believe that the American market sank by respective 13.8 or 12.4 percent amounts, and the steep global declines repeated themselves in the one country for everyone but Lenovo. Even a market share gain for Apple came only because its shipments dropped at a gentler rate than most of its peers. Whether it's the US or worldwide, don't assume that inventory clearances ahead of Windows 8 were the only factors at work, though. Both research teams point to continuing world economic troubles as influences, and IDC contends that buyers are still skipping PCs in favor of smartphones and mobile tablets. There's often a jump in computer sales between the summer and the fall, especially with a new OS on the way, but we wouldn't count on a return to the halcyon days.