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Falling PC sales: From bad to worse

Worldwide PC sales were down 9.6 percent year-on-year during the first quarter of 2016 according to Gartner. Total sales for the quarter were a shade under 65 million. This was the first quarter with less than 65 million units sold since 2007. In contrast, sales in the same quarter of 2013 were a little over 76 million.

Gartner’s falling PC sales numbers are optimistic compared to IDC which put the figure at 60.6 million units sold, down 11.5 percent on the same period a year earlier.

Both analyst companies say Lenovo remains the world largest PC maker. IDC gives it a 20.1 percent market share, Gartner puts the figure at 19.3 percent. Lenovo’s sales fell slower than the overall market.

HP down 9 percent

Number two brand HP saw sales fall 9 percent, while third-place Dell was stable. Gartner says its sales dropped 0.4 percent while IDC put the drop at 2 percent.

Asus and Apple are number four and five. Gartner has Asus a whisker ahead of Apple, IDC reverses the positions. Gartner thinks both companies managed to grow during the quarter, IDC disagrees.

The rest of the market slumped, depending on which set of numbers you prefer sales either fell 18.4 or 19.8 percent. Either way, it’s a bloodbath.

Currency a red herring

Gartner thinks currency movements can explain the decline with PCs now more expensive outside of the USA. Maybe.

However, the figures point to the fifth year in a row of falling PC sales. Sales have dropped year-on-year in each of the last 12 quarters.

The recent quarter’s decline is the worst on record. Look beyond the top brands and you have to ask how long before computer makers exit the business. There is no apparent upside, no recovery in sight.

Earlier analyst forecasts looked forward to the arrival of Windows 10 fueling fresh sales. That was over a year ago and there was no bump, no up-tick.

Keep taking the tablets

You might explain some of the drop in PC sales by the rise in tablet sales. Incidentally, I wrote this blog post on an iPad Pro — a few years ago it would be a PC task.

About 100 million tablets are purchased each year. Some will have been purchased as laptop alternatives. Yet tablet sales are also falling. And, anyway, some hybrid devices that combine PC and tablet features are counted in the PC sales numbers.

The obvious explanation is that phone sales are killing PC sales. Not only do they suck up money that might otherwise be spent on PCs, in many cases, they deliver enough PC functionality for a sizable slice of the population. It turns out many people only bought PCs for mail, browsing, video calling and other simple tasks that work just fine on a phone.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has made a point of questioning why people still bother buying PCs. That’s an interesting statement given that Apple is one of the few companies to do well in PC sales in recent years. Perhaps, unlike Gartner and IDC he thinks MacBooks and iMacs don’t count as PCs. He suggests most would be better off buying an iPad.

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9 thoughts on “Falling PC sales: From bad to worse

  1. Go back 20 years and I was pretty much replacing my PC every few months as new software (read Games) required more power. That started to change in the early 2000s because although software was becoming more powerful the hardware power was increasing faster than the software need was.

    I built my present system about three of years ago and have no plans for replacement in the next year or three. The PC I had before then I built in 2006.

    IMO, there’s probably a good case to be made for declining PC sales simply because people no longer need to upgrade to meet the power needs of software.

  2. Do really need new PC anymore. Can’t see the reason why would I want to upgrade.

  3. The Wall Street Journal reports that desktop internet use is falling.

    The amount of time people spend accessing the Internet from desktop devices is showing signs of decline, according to online measurement specialist comScore.
    Data from the research company indicate overall time spent online in the U.S. from desktop devices—which include laptop computers—has fallen for the past four months, on a year-over-year basis. It dipped 9.3% in December 2015, 7.6% in January, 2% in February and 6% in March.

    This data supports the theory that users are switching from desktop to mobile browsing. The Wall Street Journal focuses on the implications of this for media companies and others hoping to attract online readers.
    That’s important, but there’s something else. Desktop internet use doesn’t exist in a vacuum. If people are browsing the web less from laptops and PCs, then it’s logical to assume they are doing less of everything else computer related from these devices. That overall use is switching from desktops and laptops to mobile devices. From this data it seems we are now past the tipping point.
    And that helps explains why consumers are buying fewer computers; they are no longer central to our digital existence.

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