Traditional Computing | Market Research

U.S. Computer Market Up in Back to School Season

Despite an ongoing and fairly severe decline in the worldwide PC market, in the United States, computer sales are on the rise. In the third quarter of 2013 — which includes the back-to-school shopping season — PC shipments were up, according to preliminary data released by market research firm Gartner. The only top-5 manufacturer to post a decline for the quarter was Apple.

On a global scale, total PC unit shipments for the third quarter hit 80.3 million, a decline of 8.6 percent over the same three-month period in 2012.

This was the lowest level of worldwide unit shipments since the start of the recession.

"The third quarter is often referred to as the 'back-to-school' quarter for PC sales, and sales this quarter dropped to their lowest volume since 2008," said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner, in a prepared statement. "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. A greater availability of inexpensive Android tablets attracted first-time consumers in emerging markets, and as supplementary devices in mature markets."

For the quarter, the top-5 worldwide manufacturers were:

  1. Lenovo, with 14.15 million units shipped (up 2.8 percent from last year);
  2. HP, with 13.73 million units (up 1.5 percent)
  3. Dell, 9.3 million units (up 1 percent);
  4. Acer, 6.68 million units (down 22.6 percent); and
  5. Asus, 4.92 million units (down 22.5 percent).

All other manufacturers totaled about 31.5 million units, off 13.3 percent from last year.

But on the domestic front, PC unit shipments were up 3.5 percent, hitting 16.1 million units. That improvement, which this quarter was driven heavily by a handful of manufacturers at the top, is expected to continue for the next two years.

"The positive U.S. results could mean that seasonal strength and channel fill for new product launches in 3Q13 finally overcame the structural decline," Kitagawa said. "Even though 3Q13 shipments were compared with artificially weak 2Q13 because of inventory control for the Windows 8 launch at the time, the 3Q13 results imply the U.S. market may have passed the worst declining stage, which started in 2010. 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 U.S. PC market will see a more moderate decrease rather than a steep decline in the next two years."

For the quarter, the top manufacturers in the United States included:

  1. HP, 4.33 million units (up 4.5 percent over the same period last year);
  2. Dell, 3.38 million units (up 3.3 percent);
  3. Apple, 2.16 million units (down 2.3 percent);
  4. Lenovo, 1.69 million units (up 24.6 percent); and
  5. Toshiba, 1.12 million units (up 13.5 percent).

All other manufacturers combined shipped about 3.44 million units, off 4.8 percent from last year.

Further details can be found in Gartner's computing hardware resources.

About the Author

David Nagel is editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Technology Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal and STEAM Universe. A 25-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at or follow him on Twitter at @THEJournalDave (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education).

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