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Lenovo and Apple grew as bottom fell out of PC market in Western Europe

Vendors increasingly suffred from a lack of consumer demand for laptops and desktops in Q1

PC shipments in Western Europe declined by 20.5 percent during the first quarter: The only vendors to see shipments grow were Lenovo and Apple, which returned to the top five.

Shipments during the quarter dropped to 12.3 million, compared to 15.5 million units in the first quarter of 2012, according to market research company Gartner. That is the worst quarterly decline the company has seen since it started tracking PC shipments in the region.

The wide availability of Windows 8-based PCs was again unable to boost consumer PC purchases. Users still wonder about its suitability for traditional PCs, according to Gartner analyst Meike Escherich.

All market segments were affected by the first quarter drop: Mobile and desktop shipments fell by 24.6 percent and 13.8 percent respectively. Shipments in the professional PC market declined by 17.2 percent, while those to consumers decreased by 23.7 percent.

The two biggest vendors, Hewlett-Packard and Acer, both saw volumes decline by over 30 percent. Despite shipping only half as many notebooks to consumers as it did a year earlier, HP remained the market leader by approximately 1 million PCs. It shipped 2.4 million units while Acer totalled 1.4 million.

Lenovo, on the other hand, grew shipments by 7.2 percent, and was only 6,000 units behind Acer, according to Gartner's data. The vendor continued to expand in the consumer PC sector by winning share from both Acer and HP, and competed closely with HP and Dell in the professional PC market, Gartner said.

Dell retained its fourth spot in Western Europe, as questions about its future ownership loom large. The company's shipments dropped by 14.7 percent to 1.2 million PCs.

Apple returned to the top five for the first time since 2011. It increased shipments by 0.8 percent, to 972,000 laptops and desktops

One vendor missing from the top five was Asus, which was the third-biggest vendor during the first quarter of 2012. The company was hit by the death of the mini-notebook market, and didn't have any significant professional customer base to fall back on.

Microsoft will update Windows 8 later this year in a bid to improve usability. It hasn't yet detailed what the free Windows 8.1 upgrade will add, but an executive has conceded that restoring the start menu might be useful.

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