At least one research firm continues to rank HP as No. 1 in global PC sales over Lenovo.

IDC says HP is the world leader through the fourth quarter of 2012 with Lenovo No. 2.

In the third quarter, IDC ranked HP first and Lenovo second, but rival research firm Gartner put Lenovo in the lead.

Gartner has not yet released its fourth-quarter sales figures.

IDC did note that Lenovo shipment volume did increase more than 8 percent to a record high topping 14 million. However, the growth rate was much smaller than in recent quarters as Lenovo charged past Acer and Dell to nearly topple HP from the top spot.

Irregardless of who is No. 1, the IDC report was not good news for the industry in general as overall sales fell 6.4 percent compared to a year ago. That was worst than the 4.4 percent drop IDC had forecast, and the decline was the first time since 2001 that PC sales dropped over the holiday season, IDC said.

For the year, shipments fell more than 3 percent,

A big reason: The release of Windows 8 didn’t spark a big rebound in the industry.

“Although the third quarter was focused on the clearing of Windows 7 inventory, preliminary research indicates the clearance did not significantly boost the uptake of Windows 8 systems in Q4,” said Jay Chou, a senior research analyst with IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker.

“Lost in the shuffle to promote a touch-centric PC, vendors have not forcefully stressed other features that promote a more secure, reliable and efficient user experience,” he added. “As Windows 8 matures, and other corresponding variables such as Ultrabook pricing continue to drop, hopefully the PC market can see a reset in both messaging and demand in 2013.”

PC shipments fell to 89.8 million units, according to IDC.

IDC and other analysts had projected 2012 would be tough on PC sellers as tablets and smartphones increase in popularity. Some research firms don’t include tablets in PC sales figures.

In the U.S., meanwhile, sales fell 4.5 percent in the last quarter and finished down 7 percent for the year.

“Consumers expected all sorts of cool PCs with tablet and touch capabilities,” noted David Daoud, the research director of the IDC Tracker. “Instead, they mostly saw traditional PCs that feature a new OS (Windows 8) optimized for touch and tablet with applications and hardware that are not yet able to fully utilize these capabilities. Despite a generally weak performance, some leading brands managed do to well relative to the market.

IDC’s Vendor Highlights

  • HP continued to defend its top position in IDC’s worldwide ranking, recovering somewhat from past weakness in key markets. An aggressive push for Windows 8 volume helped the vendor make gains in Asia/Pacific and its home turf in the U.S. HP struggled in EMEA but posted the first year-over-year growth in Asia/Pacific in four quarters. Total volume was nearly flat from a year ago, but better than the overall market.
  • Lenovo outpaced the market with growth of over 8%. Volume reached a new record-high of more than 14 million units, with continued success in channel wins in the U.S. and EMEA. Despite the positive performance, Lenovo’s gains remained significantly smaller than several quarters ago when the company was besting market growth by nearly 30%.
  • Dell continued to lose ground as it faces aggressive competition from other leaders and looks for better margins. Worldwide shipments were down over 20% year over year – faster than declines over the past several years – with U.S. volume declining almost as much. The firm did manage sequential growth in most other markets.
  • Acer Group, like a few other vendors, remains heavily dependent on consumer spending. As a result, it has continued to suffer as consumers focus on other products. At the same time, Acer’s cautious approach to the Windows 8 transition has contributed to slower notebook shipments.
  • ASUS held onto its top 5 spot globally and stretched the distance between itself and other consumer-focused vendors with growth of 5.6% year on year. The firm racked-up strong gains across many regions, where its often innovative yet price-conscious offerings still managed to take root in spite of an increasingly tough landscape.

[LENOVO ARCHIVE: Check out seven years of Lenovo stories as reported in WRAL Tech Wire.]