Increased corporate spending and seasonal growth pushed worldwide shipments of server computers to 1.6 million in the final quarter of 2003, up 24.5 percent from the year-earlier period, reported Gartner's Dataquest division.

All the main vendors increased their shipments in the quarter, which was the fourth consecutive quarter of double-digit growth for server shipments. However, market leader Hewlett-Packard did lose some market share as rivals Dell and IBM, ranked second and third in the market, respectively, increased their share, according to Dataquest.

In the last quarter of 2002, HP held a 29.9 percent share of the market with 382,616 units shipped. In the fourth quarter of 2003, HP shipped 461,615 servers, good for a 29 percent share, Dataquest said. In the same periods, Dell's market share grew from 19.2 percent to 20 percent and IBM's share went from 15.4 percent to 17.2 percent, Dataquest said.

HP leads the market worldwide and is also the number one vendor in terms of unit shipments in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), the Asia-Pacific region (excluding Japan) and Latin America. In the US and Japan, Dell leads the market, while IBM is number one in Canada, according to Dataquest.

The largest chunk of the 1,591,166 worldwide shipments in the fourth quarter of 2003 was in the US, with 653,365 units shipped. The EMEA region was the second biggest market with 527,216 units shipped.

Most of the server demand is still for lower-priced systems using x86-compatible processors such as those manufactured by Intel, Dataquest said. However, the third quarter in 2003 was the first quarter of growth in two years for servers based on RISC (reduced instruction set computer) chips, and this trend may continue, Dataquest said.

Sun Microsystems, a large vendor of RISC-based systems, shipped 83,833 servers in the fourth quarter of 2003, up from 62,914 the year before and good for a market share increase from 4.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2002 to 5.3 percent in 2003, according to Dataquest. Sun, which came fourth in unit sales, also sells x86-compatible servers.