Personal computer shipments continued to grow in the third quarter but at a sluggish pace, intensifying concerns about the industry’s dimming prospects going into the all-important holiday shopping season.

HP retained its spot as the world’s No. 1 PC seller. But the No. 2 spot was up for grabs. Lenovo Group, which is based in China but operates its executive headquarters in Morrisville, N.C., overtook Dell Inc. and claimed the No. 2 spot for the first time, IDC and Gartner reported.

Even as global shipments fell below expectations, Lenovo’s shipments grew by 25 percent or more.

Lenovo increased its global market share to 13.5 percent from 11.1 percent a year ago, up 25 percent, according to Gartner.

IDC, meanwhile, said Lenovo grew share to 13.7 percent from 10.4 percent in the same time frame – a 36 percent increase.

Lenovo also made strong progress in the United States, a market it has found tough to target and one that IBM struggled with before selling its PC division to Lenovo six years ago. IDC reported that Lenovo’s U.S. market share grew to 6.8 percent, up 22 percent from a year ago. That new figure is good for fifth spot.

IDC acknowledged Lenovo’s growth in a tough market.

“Most vendors continue to struggle with the slow market environment and product changes,” said Loren Loverde, IDC vice president of Worldwide Consumer Device Trackers. “Although we don’t see media tablets and other devices replacing PCs, questions on how products will evolve, and consumer interest in these and other categories are providing a distraction. And while price remains critical, many users are delaying PC purchases for the moment. Still, there are opportunities, as demonstrated by Lenovo’s gains, and we expect PCs to find stronger demand in the coming years.”

Gartner also noted Lenovo’s surge:

“Lenovo became the second-largest PC vendor in the worldwide market for the first time,” Gartner said. “The company’s expansion was boosted in part by the joint vendor with NEC in Japan. However, its aggressive marketing to both the professional and consumer PC markets accelerated its shipment volume.”

(Lenovo’s CEO aims for No. 1 – and more. Read details here.)

Overall, however, the new numbers are likely to dampen expectations for upcoming quarterly results from PC makers and their suppliers.

The biggest maker of PC processors, Intel Corp., is scheduled to report its third-quarter numbers on Tuesday.

The prospects already weren’t bright.

PC sales have been in a prolonged funk as anemic demand and rival technologies such as tablets and smartphones have dragged down demand in the U.S. and Europe. Growth in Asian economies isn’t enough to offset sluggishness elsewhere.

A notable dynamic of the third quarter was that Hewlett-Packard Co. increased its PC shipments faster than the industry average. That’s despite that company’s attempts to sell or spin off its PC business, which many analysts said has irreparably damaged the brand. IDC and Gartner both reported market share gains for H-P.

Gartner reported that worldwide PC shipments were 91.8 million units in the quarter, a 3.2 percent increase over last year, and slightly lower than its earlier projection for 5.1 percent. Western Europe in particular was weak.

IDC said that PC shipments increased to 91.9 million, a 3.6 percent increase over last year, but lower than the firm’s expectations for 4.5 percent growth.

Gartner and IDC use slightly different measurements. The numbers are aggregated from many places, typically including shipments to distributors, making them imprecise measurements but valuable for gauging the overall direction of the markets.

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