PC server sales ran out of steam in the first half of the year, according to research firm IDC. It found that Q2 worldwide shipments were down one per cent from the first quarter, the first time sales have gone backwards. Year on year, growth has levelled out at 17 per cent but IDC has claimed there is no need to panic. Third and fourth quarter figures should be a lot better due to seasonal buying patterns in Europe and the US pushing sales back up, IDC says. It blames the economic malaise in Japan for the earlier blip in growth and claimed that sales in Japan will continue to be sluggish until mid-1999. "Inventory issues in the US, modest growth in Europe and buyers holding off in anticipation of Xeon processors have all contributed to the slowdown in growth," said IDC analyst Amir Ahari. Compaq is still number one in the worldwide server charts but its lead is bleeding away, said IDC. Compaq dropped from 29.6 per cent to 27.7 per cent during Q2, while Hewlett-Packard gained share, rising to 15.2 per cent. IBM also grew share to 12.2 per cent. Dell is catching up fast, breaking into double figures for the first time with an 11.4 per cent share.