Researcher IDC has reiterated its oft-stated refrain of PC’s hastening slide to the abyss but this time warned to expect 2013 to close with the worst yearly decline in the industry’s history, icing the gloom with little hope for a recovery and topping it off with a separate projection for tablets to slow to single-digit growth rates.
At this point, in what’s being warbled as the PC’s swan song, none of the PC doom-saying should catch any hardware manufacturer unaware, and, in their defense, even the rosiest of optimists aren’t whistling past the graveyard.
But, without question, there’s a new air of “it ain’t that bad” swirling around the PC industry of late, with stalwarts Dell, Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), Intel (INTC) and Microsoft (MSFT) all intimating that sentiment in one form or another. Perhaps they've all fallen under the spell of the new normal, where “down” is the new flat. Why, less than two weeks ago Intel chief Brian Krzanich said the chip maker sees the PC market—which still generates the company some $33 billion in annual sales and $12 billion in yearly profit—as steadying.
Each of those players, and let’s not neglect PC global shipment leader Lenovo in the mix, has made and is acting on some semblance of new plans to compensate for the loss of PC sales, mixing in tablets and hybrid convertibles as the market morphs into mobile.
With PCs in a death spiral, relatively speaking, is there a vendor in the industry still lacking a new plan? Ok, well maybe there’s one or two, but not anyone seriously vying for the top slots in the market.
Still, the numbers are the numbers, and for its final 2013 worldwide PC forecast IDC subtracted another .4 percent from a previous estimate and now expects the industry to decline by 10.1 percent for the year, in what it called “by far the most severe yearly contraction on record.”
There’s not much hope for recovery in sight, said IDC, noting the market’s “limited” interest in PCs and projecting the segment to tumble by another 3.8 percent in 2014, with shipments approximating 2008 levels at about 300 million units. And, let’s not forget that sales have slowed even in emerging markets, long a stronghold for PC sales worldwide, and that IDC expects the fairly hardy commercial PC segment to flatten out in the long term.
Much of the available market for PCs, IDC said, owes to investment planning by businesses to replace older Windows XP-based systems before Microsoft discontinues support for the platform in April, 2014.
As a market driver, PC replacement isn’t a sustainable factor, said Jay Chou, IDC senior research analyst. “Perhaps the chief concern for future PC demand is a lack of reasons to replace an older system."
The growth of hybrid convertibles (notebooks and tablets in one device) and Windows-based tablets, estimated to grow to nearly 40 million units in 2017 from fewer than 7.5 million in 2013, will provide a boost to the overall PC ecosystem, IDC said, but not enough to lift it more than a couple of points.
Tablet Growth Slowing
IDC revised its global tablet shipment forecast for 2013 downward, from an earlier expectation of 227.4 million units to the current projection of 221.3 million units. Still, even at the slightly lower figure, tablet unit sales amount to a 53.5 percent increase from last year.
Going forward, however, it’s another story, IDC said. Expect shipment growth to slow to 22.2 percent in 2014 for a total of 270.5 million units, and by 2017 slide into single digits, topping out at 386.3 million units, down 5 percent from IDC’s prior estimate of 407 million units.
IDC’s tablets research director Tom Mainelli said that consumers in some markets are buying large smartphones rather than small tablets.