IDC39s Q1 2013 PC shipment estimates

IDC's Q1 2013 PC shipment estimates.

PC Sales: Doesn’t Anyone Want To Buy Anymore?

Researcher IDC reported global PC sales for Q1 2013 dropped 13.9 percent, the steepest year-over-year quarterly decline since the company began tracking worldwide shipments nearly 20 years ago.

Doesn’t anyone want to buy a PC anymore, you remember, those inexpensive, packed-to-the-gills with features, getting-ever-thinner, neat numbers that sit on your desk or fold up in your backpack?

Ask prominent researchers IDC and Gartner and they’ll tell you that the chorus of “no’s” that began a year ago has now reached a threshold of naysayers, so much so that the decline in PC sales, according to IDC, has never been steeper than it was in the first quarter of 2013. And Gartner’s forecast is not much rosier.

According to IDC, global PC shipments totaled some 76.3 million units in Q1 2013 , a 13.9 percent year-over-year slide and nearly double the 7.7 percent downturn the researcher expected. Indeed, it’s most precipitous slide PC sales have taken in any one quarter in nearly 20 years, or since IDC began compiling such figures in 1994. The fact that PC sales dumped for the fourth consecutive quarter year-over-year is almost secondary when viewed through the big picture prism.

Gartner’s forecast, while not as moribund as IDC’s, still portrays the PC industry as one in steady decline. Its figures show worldwide PC shipments totaling 79.2 million units for Q1 2013, a 11.2 percent decline from the first quarter of 2012, and the first time since Q2 2009 that the total has slipped south of 80 million units.

We all know the reasons for the slippage--consumers are buying tablets and smartphones instead of PCs, and in great enough numbers for PC vendors to begin to suffer the consequences of the migration away from the traditional computing platforms. The oddity in this equation, as Gartner points out, is that the commercial PC market is growing.

"Unlike the consumer PC segment, the professional PC market, which accounts for about half of overall PC shipments, has seen growth, driven by continuing PC refreshes," said Mikako Kitagawa, Gartner principal analyst. “Despite the fact that some regions already passed the peak of PC refresh, overall professional PC demand continued to grow."

Windows 8, thought to be the PC’s savior, has not been able to stem the ebbing tide and, ironically, may have made matters worse owing to what IDC called “radical changes to the UI" and other new features that made user uncomfortable.

"At this point, unfortunately, it seems clear that the Windows 8 launch not only failed to provide a positive boost to the PC market, but appears to have slowed the market," said Bob O'Donnell, IDC clients and displays program vice president. "While some consumers appreciate the new form factors and touch capabilities of Windows 8, the radical changes to the UI, removal of the familiar Start button, and the costs associated with touch have made PCs a less attractive alternative to dedicated tablets and other competitive devices. Microsoft will have to make some very tough decisions moving forward if it wants to help reinvigorate the PC market."

And so will PC makers, who, other than Lenovo (whose charge-ahead sales strategy appears to be holding steady as the only one of the top five PC vendors who didn’t suffer a huge quarterly decline) are together in an ocean liner that’s slowly taking on more and more water.

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