Hewlett-Packard ( HP ) has become the world's largest PC seller, nabbing the top slot from rival Dell.

HP shipped 9.9m PCs in the third quarter of this year - up by 16.7 per cent from the 8.4m sold during the same period in 2005 - according to new figures from research organisation iSuppli .

The strong result pushes HP's market share up to 16.5 per cent, a rise of 2.9 per cent compared to the 13.6 per cent it had in the second quarter of 2006. More importantly, it puts HP ahead of Dell - albeit by a mere two-tenths of a point.

"HP posted a memorable third quarter," said Matthew Wilkins, principal analyst with iSuppli.

"Its sales grew by double-digit percentages both on a year-to-year and on a quarter-to-quarter basis. Due to this rapid sales growth, HP has once again become the world's largest PC maker, a position it has not held since 2003."

HP extended overall growth

HP's latest figures exceeded the 9.5 per cent growth of the PC market overall. But, iSuppli reported, they also exceeded the 3.4 per cent and 10.4 per cent global increases for HP's two closest rivals, Dell and Lenovo.

Dell, on the other side, announced a 1.9 per cent drop in shipments, from 10m units in the second quarter of 2006 to 9.8m units in the third quarter, according to iSuppli's figures.

Compared to the same period last year, Dell fared better. Third-quarter shipments in 2006 were up by 3.4 per cent to 2005, only managing about a third of the growth rate for the total computer industry.

"HP's positive news is in part due to Dell's problems," said Wilkins.

Chinese computer maker Lenovo stayed put in third place, having shipped just under 4.5m units. Its numbers are up 10.4 per cent from 4m in the third quarter of 2005. Lenovo's market share rose to 7.5 per cent (up from 7.4 per cent) compared to the third quarter of 2005.

Strongest growth

According to iSuppli, Taiwanese manufacturer Acer managed the strongest growth of the top five PC sellers. Acer managed to increase its shipments by almost a third (29 per cent) since 2005, keeping the company at number four in the market.

Toshiba grabbed the fifth place, having delivered a growth of 24 per cent and shipping 2.5m units.

"As we look to the fourth quarter, iSuppli believes that we will see strong demand, in keeping with the holiday season," said Wilkins.

"Notebook sales will continue their strong momentum. Recent history has shown that aggressive price cuts among PC makers boost sales during the holiday season. We expect this year to be no different." Anna Lagerkvist