Compaq Computer Corp. remained the world's leading seller of personal computers in 1996, a year in which the industry continued to grow but at a slower rate than previously expected.
Analysts blamed delay of consumer purchases in the United States and weakness in some overseas economies for the industry's less-rapid pace.
Still, worldwide PC shipments rose 17.8 percent in 1996, according to Dataquest Inc. of San Jose, Calif. Also Monday, International Data Corp. of Framingham, Mass., reported 16 percent growth.
Compaq enjoyed the No. 1 spot for the third straight year, followed by IBM, Packard Bell-NEC, Apple and Hewlett-Packard, according to both IDC and Dataquest. Hewlett-Packard experienced the fastest growth, seeing sales rise 48 percent, according to IDC, and 51.8 percent according to Dataquest.
While Compaq, IBM and HP saw gains in shipments and market share, Apple and Packard Bell-NEC lost ground. Apple's sales fell 22 percent and its market share sank to 5.2 percent from 7.9 percent, according to both research companies. Its worldwide ranking slipped from No. 3 to No. 4.
Overall, the industry sold 68.4 million personal computers last year, according to IDC. Dataquest's figure was 70.9 million.
Analysts previously expected growth to approach 20 percent, but consumers in the United States didn't buy as many PCs in the fourth quarter as they did a year earlier. Industry observers believe many consumers were waiting for just-introduced computers with Intel Corp. microprocessors that enhance multimedia use.
Dataquest said consumers are increasingly interested in PCs but that it was not yet clear if that would mean similar growth in sales. It predicts global shipments will rise 17.7 percent this year while IDC forecasts growth of 16 percent to 17 percent.