Yesterday delivered some good news for the IT industry as research firm Gartner Dataquest recorded a slight financial growth across the market at the end of last year.

After a year of disappointing results demand is starting to pick up, driven by consumer demand for mobile devices such as laptops and PDAs and the new tablet PC.

Computer maker HP held on to the top spot ahead of competitors Dell, Fujitsu-Siemens, IBM and Acer. But only Dell and Acer reported year-on-year growth of 8.7 and 20 percent respectively.

But despite the positive results, Gartner Dataquest does not believe the market will pick up considerably throughout 2003, estimating total growth of around six to seven percent.

One of the reasons for this could be that large corporate firms simply aren't shelling out for new equipment. In their place small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) have become the new focus for many IT companies.

"We don’t expect corporate PC demand to be bolstered by a strong replacement cycle during 2003," said Brain Gammage, principle analyst at Gartner Dataquest.

Printer maker Lexmark, for example, is concentrating its efforts on its so-called small to medium sized business (SMB) program, which offers tailor-made support and technical advice to small businesses.

"There is a market there that has perhaps been forgotten, which needs special attention and it should have access to the same facilities as the corporate market," said Amanda Bibbey, marketing programs manager.

There was a general slowdown in consumer demand affecting many retailers such as Dixons which, according to Gartner Dataquest, has left many companies running high inventory levels.

Although the modest 2.7 percent increase in shipments isn't too much to get excited about it represents a brighter outlook than the same period in 2001, when shipments decreased for the first time in over a decade.