PC Slide Continues As Back-To-School Fails To Deliver

The moribund state of the PC market has been starkly exposed in the third quarter, as global shipments decline yet again.

Analysts point to the failure of back-to-school sales to make an impact, but there was a silver lining because of a small bump in the corporate PC space, according to IDC and Gartner.

Enterprise Growth

Lenovo, Hewlett-Packard and Dell, which all have a strong presence in the enterprise, saw small upticks in their shipments in the quarter, an indication that – at least for the third quarter – businesses were buying systems, according to both market research firms.

IBM PC 5150 Game OverConversely, both Acer and Asus, with PC businesses entrenched in the consumer space, saw shipments fall by 22.5 percent (according to Gartner) to 34.5 percent (said IDC) over the same period last year. Consumers in both mature and emerging markets continued to gravitate toward tablets for some tasks, slowing the demand for PCs.

“Consumers’ shift from PCs to tablets for daily content consumption continued to decrease the installed base of PCs both in mature as well as in emerging markets,” Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner, said in a statement. “A greater availability of inexpensive Android tablets attracted first-time consumers in emerging markets, and as supplementary devices in mature markets.”

According to Loren Loverde, vice president of worldwide PC Trackers at IDC, said that no matter why consumers are spending their money on tablets, the result will be another year of falling PC shipments next year, despite the effort by PC makers and component vendors in creating new form factors and adding such features as touch.

“Whether constrained by a weak economy or being selective in their tech investments, buyers continue to evaluate options and delay PC replacements,” Loverde said in a statement. “Despite being a little ahead of forecast, and the work that’s being done on new designs and integration of features like touch, the third quarter results suggest that there’s still a high probability that we will see another decline in worldwide shipments in 2014.”

Complementary Tablets

In an interview with eWEEK in September, Bob O’Donnell, IDC’s program vice president of clients and displays, said that despite the decline in PC shipments since 2010, PCs continue to be the dominant important computing tools, with tablets playing a complementary role. However, because more money and time are being spent on tablets, the lifetimes of PCs are being stretched, and annual sales will continue to decline for another year or two.

“When you think about what’s going on in the market, you’re seeing a high surge in tablets, you’re seeing a high surge in smartphones, and the PC market is tanking, and it makes sense to see a post-PC world,” O’Donnell said. “The reality is that the PC is a still a very important device. The problem is, when you get these other devices, [users’] spending on a PC goes down 25 to 30 percent typically.”

Executives with Intel and other tech vendors are expecting that a range of new form factors – particularly convertible systems that can be used as both a traditional notebook and a tablet – and features such as touch capabilities will make PCs more attractive to consumers and business users alike.

Lenovo-IdeaPad-S2110-topXP Cutoff

PC makers also are hoping that Microsoft ending support for Windows XP in April 2014 will boost corporate PC sales as businesses migrate to Windows 7 or 8. Not all analysts are confident that the XP migration will help the PC market all that much. In a research note 7 October, Chris Whitmore, an analyst with of Deutsche Bank Equity Research, said the “corporate upgrade cycle will peak in [the second half of 2013] as corporate complete [Windows 7] transitions” ahead of the XP deadline, and that the expected launch of a 64-bit iPad 5 22 October will further hamper corporate PC sales. He expects PC sales in 2013 to decline as much as 10 percent and 8 percent next year.

Lenovo, HP and Dell continued to rank one through three in the Gartner and IDC lists of the top PC vendors as the market heads into the crucial holiday season. Lenovo had a narrow 17.6-to-17.1 percent market share lead over HP, according to Gartner, while IDC had it even closer, with Lenovo having 17.3 percent share to HP’s 17.1 percent.

Analysts with both firms also noted that shipment declines in the United States slowed a little, a trend that should continue.

“The 3Q13 results imply the US market may have passed the worst declining stage, which started in 2010,” Gartner’s Kitagawa said. “The shrinking installed base of PCs has also passed the steepest decline phase because the structural change has progressed fairly quickly. Tablets will continue to impact the PC market, but the US PC market will see a more moderate decrease rather than a steep decline in the next two years.”

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