2013 PC Decline Much Worse Than Forecast

Server sales are decliningBad news for anyone expecting PCs to make a big comeback before the end of the year: Market analyst firm IDC has revised its estimates for PC shipments in 2013, and the decline is steeper than originally forecast.

According to the IDC Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker, global PC shipments will have declined by at least 10.1 percent in 2013, tallying just above 300 million units or barely above 2008 volume.

Worse, IDC projects desktop and notebook computer shipments to continue to decline in 2014 by at least 3.8 percent.

This marks the second consecutive year of declining shipments and sales of conventional PCs. In 2012, desktop and notebook computer shipments fell 8.8 percent, mostly due to consumer adoption of smartphones and tablets and businesses delaying refreshes of their PCs fleets.

“Perhaps the chief concern for future PC demand is a lack of reasons to replace an older system,” said IDC senior analyst Jay Chou. “Despite industry efforts, PC usage has not moved significantly beyond consumption and productivity tasks to differentiate PCs from other devices. As a result, PC lifespans continue to increase, thereby limiting market growth.”

Hurting PC sales is the declining interest by consumers. Sales to home users fell by 15 percent in 2013 — this is where tablets and smartphones are having their biggest impact. Businesses, however, continue to buy PCs. Solution providers say sales of desktop and notebook machines are brisk. The Global Technology Distribution Council (GTDC) reported earlier this year the volume of PCs shipped through distribution increased 14.5 percent this year.

IDC confirms sales of PCs to businesses is faring much better than the consumer sector, but is still down. Commercial computer sales will have fallen by 5 percent by the end of 2013. Sales could pick up in 2014 as businesses replace machines running Windows XP, which Microsoft Corp. is ending support for in April 2014.

Helping PC sales rebound, though, is the inclusion of 2-in-1 machines, or clamshell PCs that have detachable tablets. Businesses are showing interest in these devices — mostly of the Windows variety. IDC expects business interest in 2-in-1 devices to stabilize declining sales of Windows devices.

“The Windows-based tablet market (covered in IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker) is expected to grow to 39.3 million units in 2017 from less than 7.5 million in 2013 and less than 1 million in 2011. However, relative to a PC market size of roughly 300 million units, these Windows tablets would add just a couple percent a year relative to PC growth. Even so, these Windows devices are projected to account for 10% of a combined PC and Windows tablet market by 2016 – making them an important growth segment for the PC ecosystem,” said Loren Loverde, vice president of Worldwide Quarterly PC Trackers at IDC.

No real relief for the PC market is expected in 2015, IDC says. This isn’t good news for PC, component and software vendors, many of which are seeing revenues and profits squeezed as businesses and end users shift to alternative devices or extend the life of legacy systems.