Global personal computer shipments crept up only slightly in the fourth quarter, a pair of industry trackers said on Wednesday, hurt by weak consumer holiday demand and competition from Apple's iPad tablet.

PC shipments rose 2.7 percent to 92.1 million in the October-December period, research group IDC said. IDC had expected growth of 5.5 percent.

Separately, researcher Gartner said fourth-quarter shipments rose 3.1 percent.

If you look at Europe and the U.S., the market wasn't that good. Part of that was the tablet, IDC analyst Jay Chou said. Netbooks are old news now, and people just don't have the dollars to spend.

The iPad, which launched last April, has helped spawn a new market in tablet computers. Dozens of touchscreen tablets are expected to launch this year, further eating into demand for traditional PCs.

IDC does not count tablets in its PC estimates, but the market is expected to top 50 million units this year.

For 2010 as a whole, PC shipments rose 13.6 percent to 346.2 million units, IDC said. The group now expects growth in 2011 to be lower than its previous forecast of 10 percent.

Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa echoed the concerns about 2011.

For all 2010, the results indicate the PC market recovered from the recession, she said in a news release. However, the PC market will face challenges going forward.

Hewlett-Packard Co maintained the top spot in the global PC rankings in the fourth quarter, although shipments dipped and the company's market share fell to 19.5 percent, IDC said.

Dell Inc took firm control of the No. 2 spot, with shipments rising around 4 percent.

Once hot No. 3 Acer Inc, whose sales were fueled by low-cost netbooks that have now fallen out of favor with consumers, saw shipments fall 15 percent.

The top five was rounded out by Lenovo and Toshiba Corp, which both continued to post above-market growth.

Apple does not rank among the top five PC vendors globally but sales of Mac computers have been growing fast. Apple's shipments rose 15 percent in the U.S. in the fourth quarter, IDC said, making it No. 5 in that market, a hair behind Acer.

(Reporting by Gabriel Madway; Editing by Bernard Orr, Phil Berlowitz)