Global PC Shipments Continued Downward Trend in Fourth Quarter

Pulkit Chandna

Gartner and IDC blame poor Windows 8 uptake, bad economy and competing devices

While Microsoft’s recent claim that Windows 8 is following a similar sales trajectory as its predecessor may or may not be fully accurate, the latest PC shipment numbers from market research firms Gartner and IDC have made one thing very clear: that Windows 8 sales between October 26 and December 31 weren’t enough to help the PC industry avoid a rare fourth-quarter sales slump.

Where Gartner’s numbers point to a 4.9 percent year-on-year decline in global PC shipments during the fourth quarter of 2012, according to IDC’s assessment the decline in shipments was a significantly more grim 6.4 percent. So, what factors were to blame for the decline in PC shipments this time? Well, the usual suspects — the economy, tablets and Windows 8.

“Tablets have dramatically changed the device landscape for PCs, not so much by ‘cannibalizing’ PC sales, but by causing PC users to shift consumption to tablets rather than replacing older PCs,” said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner, in a press release. Kitagawa suspects that this trend could reach a point where people who own both a PC and a tablet are the exception and not the norm.

"Although the third quarter was focused on the clearing of Windows 7 inventory, preliminary research indicates the clearance did not significantly boost the uptake of Windows 8 systems in Q4," said Jay Chou, a senior research analyst at IDC, blaming this on the failure of touch-obsessed PC vendors to market other important “features that promote a more secure, reliable and efficient user experience.”

“As Windows 8 matures, and other corresponding variables such as Ultrabook pricing continue to drop, hopefully the PC market can see a reset in both messaging and demand in 2013,” Chou added.

The U.S. PC market also witnessed a fall in shipments, albeit not as sharp as the decline in global shipments. During the quarter, U.S. PC shipments dropped 2.1 percent according to Gartner, and 4.5 percent according to IDC.

IDC believes things could have been far worse but for some welcome consumer activity at the time of Windows 8’s launch. According to Kitagawa, the U.S. PC market benefitted from some good growth in professional PC sales during the quarter.

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