If Chinese-based computer manufacturer Lenovo keeps moving at its current pace, the company will surpass Hewlett-Packard as the world's largest PC maker by the beginning of 2013, industry analysts say.
That would represent a big shift for an industry that has long seen HP sit atop the PC business. Lenovo's challenge represents the closest any PC maker has come to taking the lead position from HP since the second quarter of 2008, when Dell came within 2.7 percentage points.
Lenovo's climb also puts a spotlight on how rocky things have become for the company that once had an unyielding grip on its lead spot in the industry.
"If the current trends for both companies continue, Lenovo should surpass HP in Q3 or Q4," said Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT, Inc. "On its face, it might not mean much to the industry. But Lenovo taking the top spot would be a huge boost for China's IT industry as proof they can play and win in the global big leagues."
Lenovo has been steadily moving up the ranks of the world's top PC makers in the last several years.
In the third quarter of 2011, Lenovo passed Dell to take the industry's second-place spot. It was an impressive move for a company that was in fourth place as recently as the first quarter of 2011.
Gartner analysts at the time said increased competition in the enterprise PC market hurt Dell and boosted Lenovo, adding that Lenovo's "aggressive marketing" in both the enterprise and consumer markets aided the company.
Then, just this week, a Gartner report showed that Lenovo is within reach of HP, which is barely clinging to its top spot in the market.
HP, which suffered a global shipment decline of 12.1% in the second quarter of this year, holds 14.9% of the PC market. Lenovo now has 14.7%.
"Lenovo has more than a good shot to overtake HP in global PC sales," said Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. "They'll need a very solid third quarter, back-to-school selling season to do it this year, but I'd expect to see them sitting alone in the number one slot by the end of first quarter 2013."
Analysts agreed that HP has been causing many of its own problems
In August 2011, HP executives announced they were considering spinning off the company's PC manufacturing business. While HP later reconsidered and decided to keep the business, the possibility created a major stir in the industry.
Dell CEO Michael Dell later said the confusion that HP caused in the industry created an opportunity for other PC manufacturers as HP's customers had been left adrift.
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