The surge in PC shipments in the fourth quarter of 2003 has not only left vendors projecting rosy optimism for the year ahead, but has also underscored the importance of sales in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), according to IDC analysts.

"EMEA has clearly been a key contributor to growth this quarter," said Karine Paoli, research director for IDC's EMEA Personal Computing Group.

While IDC reported a 15.2 percent jump in worldwide PC shipments for the fourth quarter, citing preliminary figures, shipments in EMEA grew 19.7 percent.

The relative weakness of the US dollar against the euro helped US vendors maintain competitive pricing, despite component and display shortages.

HP not only led worldwide shipments in the quarter but in Europe as well, followed by Dell. These US players made significant gains in the region through pricing as well as their ability to obtain needed components through high-volume orders, which local vendors were unable to make.

"Major brand vendors outperformed white box vendors because they were able to get their hands on components," said Andrew Brown, program manager of IDC's EMEA Mobile Computing group.

In EMEA as well as worldwide, notebooks shipments drove the fourth-quarter growth. Notebook shipments grew 49 percent year-on-year, while desktop shipments increased 10.2 percent, according to Brown.

According to Jupiter Research anlayst, Ian Fogg, notebooks are among the top five in the average UK household consumer electronic wish list - ahead of PCs. In other words, households looking to upgrade elderly PCs over 2004 are most likely to opt for a portable.