Research firms IDC and Gartner have published their respective PC shipment estimates for the first quarter of 2015 and they don’t make for pretty reading. According to both firms, the PC market squandered the momentum of recent quarters during the latest three-month period, though they don’t see eye to eye on the extent of the decline in global PC shipments.
Market research firm notes quiet and steady growth in PC sector
Ever since the first iPad came out, we had to hear analysts and market research firms predict a future in which we'd all ditch our traditional PCs for slates. Once again, however, time is the ultimate judge, and now that tablets are seemingly everywhere, consumers are turning their attention back to PCs, Gartner says. As such, Gartner notes a 1 percent increase in worldwide PC shipments in the fourth quarter of 2014, which translates into 83.7 million units.
Tablets are starting to look like that popular kid from high school who fizzled in his later years. After seeing a surge in sales, including a whopping 55 percent growth rate in 2013, market research firm Gartner predicts that tablet sales will only grow by 11 percent in 2014. By Gartner's estimate, worldwide tablet sales are on pace to hit 229 million units this year, representing 9.5 percent of total device sales (including smartphones, hybrids, traditional PCs, and ultramobile premium devices).
"The transition from PCs to tablets has faded..." - Gartner
People are fickle creatures, and if you need proof of this, just turn your attention to the technology sector. Remember when netbooks were red hot? You couldn't go more than a couple of days without seeing a new netbook announcement. They've since disappeared (and arguably returned in the form of Chromebooks), and now tablets are the hot item. Or, they used to be. According to Gartner, the tablet market is showing signs of saturation, causing consumers to fall in love with traditional PCs all over again.
We've pointed out before how Chromebooks are some of the best selling laptops on Amazon, and though these cloud-based systems aren't as capable as their Windows-based counterparts, they've having no trouble finding an audience, particularly in education circles. In fact, market research firm Gartner forecasts 5.2 million Chromebook sales by the end of the year, which would translate into a 79 percent jump compared to 2013.
Business upgrades from Windows XP will help prop up the PC market
Sometimes down but never out, traditional PCs have been doing more than just hang around, they've been leading the market despite slumping sales. Looking into next year, Gartner predicts that tablets will outsell combined desktop and notebook systems for the first time, though if you look at the market as a whole, the worldwide PC market is on the verge of a revival after dipping 9.5 percent in 2013.
Users migrating from Windows XP helped offset weak consumer spending in the PC sector
Market research firms agree that worldwide PC shipments declined in the first quarter of 2014, which is the eighth quarter in a row of negative movement. However, there are signs that the market is starting to stabilize. It's a bit of a fuzzy picture at the moment because users migrating from Windows XP could be mucking with the trend line, but the picture should become much clearer by the end of the year.
Gartner predicts a 6.6 percent decline in traditional PC shipments next year
There's no denying there's been a shift in the mainstream PC market. People who are primarily interested in surfing the web and sending emails no longer need a desktop to get the job done -- tablets and even smartphones are sufficient tools for basic connectivity. Knowing that, it's hardly surprising for Gartner to forecast a 6.6 percent decline in traditional PC shipments in 2014, but before diehard desktop and laptop fans throw their hands up in defeat, let's look at the bigger picture.
Things are looking up in the server market, and at the same time, they're looking down as well. Say what? According to market research firm Gartner, worldwide server shipments grew 3.2 percent year-over-year in the fourth quarter of 2013, though overall revenue dipped 6.6 percent compared to the same quarter in 2012. Likewise, server shipments for all of 2013 rose 2.1 percent while revenue declined 4.5 percent.
Bean counters at both IDC and Gartner pegged PC shipments at a bit over 82 million units in the fourth quarter of 2013, the former tallying 82.2 million PCs representing a 5.6 percent year-on-year loss, and the latter coming up with 82.6 million system shipments for a 6.9 percent decline compared to the same period in 2012. Gartner called it the worst decline in PC market history, but there's reason to be optimistic, especially for Lenovo.