PC Shipments Declined Again in Q3, But Drop-Off Not as Bad as Expected

PC Shipments Declined Again in Q3, But Drop-Off Not as Bad as Expected

Tablets continue to erode PC sales, but at a slower rate

Market analysts at IDC and Gartner this week separately reported that worldwide PC sales declined for the sixth consecutive quarter. But the drop-off was not as bad as previously expected, and not nearly as bad as the double-digit decline experienced in the previous quarter. Helping matters, tablet sales have slowed considerably as well.

Using averaged numbers provided by the two firms, as always, PC makers sold about 81 million personal computers in the third quarter of 2013, a decline of 8 percent from the same quarter a year ago. In that quarter last year, PC makers sold 88 million units.

"The third quarter unfortunately doesn't reflect much improvement in the PC market, or potential for near-term growth," IDC's Loren Loverde said. "Buyers continue to evaluate options and delay PC replacements. The third quarter results suggest that there's still a high probability that we will see another decline in worldwide shipments in 2014."

"Sales this quarter dropped to their lowest volume since 2008," said Gartner's Mikako Kitagawa, adding to the gloom. "Consumers' shift from PCs to tablets for daily content consumption continued to decrease the installed base of PCs both in mature as well as in emerging markets. A greater availability of inexpensive Android tablets attracted first-time consumers in emerging markets, and as supplementary devices in mature markets."

Lenovo once again emerged as the world's biggest PC maker, but only by a tiny margin: The firm sold an estimated 14.14 million PCs in the quarter, compared to 13.8 million PCs for number two HP and 9.4 million for Dell, at number three. Each of these companies experience small growth bumps, while the rest of the industry, and the other top five entries, Acer and ASUS, experienced big declines.

Even sales of Apple's Mac lineup, which don't register in the top five of worldwide or European market measurements, dropped almost 7 percent in the quarter in the United States, the firms said. Overall PC sales in the US were actually up almost 2 percent, so Apple fell harder than the rest of the market, and indeed is the only PC maker in the top five to lose market share in the US.

An 8 percent overall decline sounds bad, because it is, but this figure is also below the 9-10 percent drop-off these firms were expecting. IDC credits the difference to "a slight uptick in business shipments," while Gartner says that positive US growth figures suggest that this market is over the hump. "Tablets will continue to impact the PC market," the firm notes, "but the US PC market will see a more moderate decrease rather than a steep decline in the next two years."

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