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PCs See Longest Sustained Decline in History

Year-over-year shipments of PCs fell off worldwide for the fifth consecutive quarter, the longest sustained decline in the history of personal computing, dropping by 9 million units in the second quarter of 2013. And the picture might have been even more bleak had it not been for the relative strength of the professional market.

According to a report released by market research firm Gartner, consumers across the globe seem to be shifting their purchases away from traditional desktops and laptops and toward media consumption devices like the iPad. But while their impact is being felt, these devices aren't solely responsible for the decline.

"The sharp decline in the second quarter of 2013 was partly due to the shift in usage patterns away from notebooks to tablets, and partly because the PC market was exposed to inventory reductions in the channel due to the start of the transition to new Haswell-based products," said Isabelle Durand, principal research analyst at Gartner, in a statement released to coincide with the quarterly results report. "Touch-based notebooks still account for less than 10 per cent of the total consumer notebook shipments in the last quarter."

Worldwide PC Shipments Drop 10.9 Percent
For the three-month period ended June 30, 2013, worldwide PC shipments (including desktops, laptops, and Windows-based x86 tablets) dropped 10.9 percent, ending at about 76 million units (compared with more than 85.3 million units in the same period last year).

All of the top manufacturers saw declines in the period, though Lenovo was nearly flat.

  • Lenovo slid by 0.6 percent to 12.68 million units worldwide, in the process overtaking HP as the top worldwide vendor.
  • HP took a 4.8 percent hit, shipping 12.4 million units in the second quarter.
  • Dell was off by 3.9 percent, tallying 8.98 million units.
  • Acer took a stunning blow, plummeting 35.3 percent for a total of 6.3 million units.
  • ASUS was also hit hard, seeing a 20.5 percent decline in the quarter, shipping 4.59 million units.

All other manufacturers combined shipped 31.04 million units, down 10.5 percent from the same period a year ago.

"We are seeing the PC market reduction directly tied to the shrinking installed base of PCs, as inexpensive tablets displace the low-end machines used primarily for consumption in mature and developed markets," said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner, also in a prepared statement. "In emerging markets, inexpensive tablets have become the first computing device for many people, who at best are deferring the purchase of a PC. This is also accounting for the collapse of the mini notebook market."

PC Shipments in the United States Off 1.4 Percent
Meanwhile, on the domestic front, the picture was much less bleak. Despite the maturity of the PC market in the United States, computer shipments were off by only 1.4 percent in the second quarter, a softer blow than has been felt in the last seven quarters.

All told, manufacturers shipped 14.98 million units in the United States in 2Q 2013, down from 15.19 million in 2Q 2012. Two of the top-5 vendors even saw increases in unit shipments, though Apple was not one of them.

  • Market leader HP slid 0.5 percent to 3.96 million units.
  • Dell grew 6.4 percent to 3.68 million units, increasing its market share by nearly two points.
  • Apple fell 4.3 percent to 1.74 million units.
  • Lenovo grew 19.7 percent to 1.52 million units, increasing its market share by nearly two points.
  • Toshiba saw the steepest decline of the top 5, dropping 15.7 percent to 848,984 units.

Kitagawa added that the decline cannot be blamed entirely on Windows 8, which some analysts have cited as a key factor in the PC industry's failure to mount a comeback over the last 15 months. "While Windows 8 has been blamed by some as the reason for the PC market's decline, we believe this is unfounded as it does not explain the sustained decline in PC shipments, nor does it explain Apple's market performance," she said.

According to Kitagawa, the decline in PC shipments might have been even greater had it not been for professional users and, possibly, the end of support for Windows XP. "Our preliminary results indicate that this reduced market decline was attributed to solid growth in the professional market," Kitagawa said. "Three of the major professional PC suppliers, HP, Dell and Lenovo, all registered better than U.S. average growth rate. The end of Windows XP support potentially drove the remaining PC refresh in the U.S. professional market."

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at .

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