Global PC shipments rebounded in Q4 2009, fueled by record setting U.S. sales. 20.7 units shipped in the fourth quarter, a year-over-year growth of 24 percent, according to IDC. The quarter saw the industry’s first double-digit growth since Q3 2008. Holiday price cuts of “unprecedented duration” were a major contributor to the growth in shipments, as well as growing consumer confidence. The launch of Windows 7 also had a “moderate effect” on sales growth.

As was the case with all of 2009, the biggest sellers were price-efficient netbooks.

"The U.S. market exploded in the fourth quarter, driven by a series of factors contributing to the unexpected 24% year-on-year growth,” said David Daoud, research manager, U.S. Quarterly PC Tracker.

“First is the rubber-band effect and recovery from the year-ago quarter, which suffered from buyer contraction when the economic crisis was confirmed,” Daoud said. “The vendors responded with new low price points to stimulate demand and face competition. In this context, low-cost notebooks and mininotebooks were the biggest contributors to the successful fourth quarter. Once again, the consumer market overcame the weak commercial sector to save the quarter.”

The top vendor in Q4 was HP, which shipped 18 million units, a market share of 21 percent. The vendor with the second-highest sales was Acer, maker of the extremely popular Eee line of netbooks. Acer shipped 11.5 million units in Q4, capturing 13.4 of the market share.

While the growth is a positive sign, analysts are afraid of the long-term effects of the focus on budget PCs.

“The market has weathered a storm which looks to be behind us,” said Jay Chou, research analyst, Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker. “But salvaging decreasing margins will soon become even more pertinent as one considers the long-term effects of holding market share at the cost of profitability. Without an effective strategy to convey a clear usage model and feature set tied to each segment, the market will inevitably continue down the slippery slope of 'good-enough' computing sold to the lowest bidder".

By Mark Alvarez