Demand for low-cost netbooks from the consumer sector has helped prop up PC shipment figures, which declined less than expected during the first quarter, according to analyst house IDC.

The quarter saw Hewlett-Packard surpass Dell as the number one PC vendor in the United States. HP's shipments climbed 12 percent from the same quarter last year, while Dell's slipped by 16 percent, worse than any other vendor. HP also led the pack in worldwide sales, IDC said.

PC shipments worldwide, including desktop and notebook PCs, totalled 63.4 million in the quarter. That was down 7.1 percent from the first quarter last year, but better than IDC's forecast of an 8.2 percent decline.

While concerns about the recession continue to weigh on commercial spending, "PC demand has nevertheless remained somewhat resilient compared to the last downturn," IDC said. Falling prices, fuelled in part by increased netbook sales, helped minimise the contraction, it said.

The survey was published a day after Intel CEO Paul Otellini said PC sales had bottomed out during the first quarter, and that demand was returning to "normal seasonal patterns." Intel still didn't provide a forecast for the coming quarters, however, citing the economic uncertainty.

After some PC makers have reported several consecutive quarters of falling shipments, many saw their numbers improve in the first three months of this year. Worldwide, HP, Acer and Toshiba all reported growth in shipments, of 3 percent, 7 percent and 11.6 percent respectively. Worldwide shipments at Dell slipped almost 17 percent, while Lenovo's fell 8 percent.

The worldwide ranking stayed unchanged from last year, with HP at the top, followed by Dell, Acer, Lenovo and Toshiba.

In the US, HP had a very good quarter, with shipments up 12 percent. Acer and Toshiba also did well, while shipments at Dell and Apple both declined. The US ranking had HP on top, followed by Dell, Acer, Apple and Toshiba. Apple's share of unit shipments was 7.6 percent, IDC said.