Following a 6% decline during the holidays, the PC industry snapped back to growth in the first quarter of 2012 according to Gartner and IDC. The former outfit pegged worldwide shipments at 89 million units for a 1.9% increase year-over-year, while the latter reported a 2.3% bump on-year. The figures exceeded both firm's expectations, despite ongoing economic turmoil, recovery from disasters and what is traditionally a slow quarter.

Nonetheless, analysts are approaching the results with a cautious step. Gartner said the Asia/Pacific region performed worse than expected with slow growth in India and China, suggesting that PC vendors can't depend on emerging markets to fuel sales. The researcher also noted that the HDD shortage only had a small effect on shipments outside budget notebooks, but it's mostly because weak PC demand "masked" the limited supplies.

IDC believes the industry is due for a healthy boost later this year, as "history has shown that periods of slower growth are followed by recovery as improving technologies make replacements as well as new purchases increasingly compelling." On top of stabilizing HDD production (and hopefully prices), the researchers add that Windows 8's arrival in the fourth quarter should increase shipments, as should Intel's Ivy Bridge to some extent.

Although their figures differ a bit, both analysts reported the same general worldwide vendor rankings with HP maintaining its top position with a ~3.5% boost in shipments from the same quarter in 2011, Lenovo overcoming Dell to take second place, Acer resting in fourth and Asus rounding out the top five PC makers. Lenovo and Asus had particularly strong growth in the double digits, while Dell and Acer declined a few percentage points.

HP also held the largest US share, moving 4.5 million units, a 6.6% on-year increase to 28.0%. Dell took second in the US with a share of 21.7%, Apple grew a few more points to 10.0%, shipping over a quarter million units more than Acer and Toshiba, which occupied the remaining two slots. Of note, the stats only include desktops and notebooks but not tablets. If the iPad counted, Canalys says Apple would be the largest US PC vendor.