Is This What a PC Market Recovery Looks Like?

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When consumers hear about computing, usually it is now about smartphones, tablets, or ultra-portables. It has been the case for years that no one wanted to actually talk up the good old PC market. It turns out that the trends for advanced gaming, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality may be changing that. At least partly.

International Data Corporation (IDC) has reported that worldwide shipments of traditional PCs came to a total of 70.2 million units in the fourth quarter of 2016. This measures desktop, notebook, and workstation units, and IDC showed that this was a year-on-year decline of 1.5%.

IDC’s view is that these results continued the recent trend of stabilizing growth, which has been in decline since 2012.

Annually, shipments of traditional PCs slipped to 260 million units, down 5.7% from 2015. IDC noted:

The first quarter of 2016 was still constrained by high inventory, free Windows 10 upgrades, and difficult comparisons to commercial replacements in 2014 that were fueled by the end of support for Windows XP. However, mid-2016 and particularly the recent fourth quarter have moved beyond these inhibitors and seen stabilizing commercial demand. Contraction of the consumer PC market has also slowed as growth and competition from tablets and phones has eased up.

One recent driver has been supply constraints in components such as SSDs, displays, and memory. Those constraints were shown to have not significantly slowed the overall shipments and may even boosted growth and accelerated market consolidation.

What matters most on this look is the domestic view. Traditional PC shipments for the fourth quarter of 2016 stood at 17.0 million units. The United States saw a slight decline in shipments in the fourth quarter after inventory growth in the third quarter. Still, IDC noted that the fourth quarter saw growth toning down even as the retail PC market in the U.S. came out strong. IDC said of other geographies:

  • Japan and Canada extended positive growth from the third quarter.
  • Volume in the Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) region was stable.
  • Asia/Pacific (ex-Japan) continued to improve with only a mild decline in shipments.
  • Latin America continued to experience significant contraction.

A Vendor by vendor reading was shown below for the fourth quarter:

  • Lenovo shipped 15,693 units for 22.4% share.
  • HP shipped 15,268 units for 21.7% share.
  • Dell Technologies shipped 11,000 units for 15.7% share.
  • Apple shipped 5,263 units for 7.5% share.
  • ASUS shipped 5,167 units for 7.4% share.

The so-called ‘others’ were still larger than the rest of the pack, reportedly having 17,812 units shipped in the fourth quarter for a 25.4% market share.

Whenever you see declines it may seem hard to get excited. That being said, this is what stabilization starts looking like when you consider how many consumers globally have never bought a personal computing device larger than a smartphone or small tablet.