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No-Names Get The Last Laugh

While U.S. computer makers slug it out in brand name wars using everything from hats and t-shirts to promote Dell's smart aleck pitchman to Gateway's cyber-hip cows, no name vendors in many parts of the world are laughing all the way to the bank.

A new survey of personal computer sales shows that as a group, small no-name vendors carry a far bigger share of the world market than any of the big U.S. PC makers, including Dell and Compaq.

The survey, released Wednesday by technology research firm IDC, shows that 500 small "white box" PC vendors - operating in some 55 countries around the world - captured more than 58 percent of the personal computer sales in 2001.

By comparison, market leaders Dell, Compaq and Hewlett-Packard captured less than a third of the world's PC market, or 13 percent, 11 percent and 7 percent, respectively.

IBM's PC sales counted for 6 percent of the market and Fujitsu Siemens 4.5 percent.

Worldwide, PC shipments slumped 4 percent in 2001 to 134 million.

"These white box players have a significant share of the market," said Loren Loverde, an IDC analyst who follows the industry. "There's plenty of competition there."

He says the staying power of the small vendor is due to price - most sell cheaper machines - as well as the personal attention and services that many companies offer their buyers.

"The majors have tried to penetrate the small business and local government sectors, but it's been challenging because the small players have been able to provide services, price and flexibility," Loverde said. "The opportunity is there, but it's not exactly low-hanging fruit."

After IDC revised its figures to account for the smaller vendors, it shaved almost a percent from the market share held by Dell and Compaq. Dell, which saw its market share increase more than 16 percent between 2000 and 2001, overtook Compaq as the world's number one PC vendor.

Loverde predicts that this year's merger of Hewlett-Packard and Compaq ought to push the combined company into the top spot for 2002.

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