Tablets and – surprise – Windows 8 apparently to blame for the ailing desktop PC

by Doug Drinkwater

April 11 2013

Death of the desktop PC? New figures from Gartner and IDC suggest that consumers are now more interested in mobile devices
Death of the desktop PC? New figures from Gartner and IDC suggest that consumers are now more interested in mobile devices

Here’s some bad news for your trusty desktop PC – two new reports from market research companies suggest that demand for the PCs has hit its lowest level since 1994.

This news, which will no doubt make for grim reading for desktop and All-in-One (AIO) PC makers, comes after Gartner and IDC released their analysis of the PC market from the first quarter of 2013.

The two firms differed slightly in the roundabout numbers for the quarter, but appeared to come to the same damming conclusion –the PC market has seen better days.

IDC claims that worldwide PC shipments reached 76.3 million units, representing a year-on-year drop of 13.9% compared to Q1 last year and worse that its forecast decline of 7.7%. The firm said that it was the worst quarter for the PC market since it began tracking the PC market in 1994.

The overview was similar from Gartner, with the Stamford-based researcher stating that worldwide PC units totalled 79.2 million units, representing an 11.2% decline YoY and marking the first time global shipments had dropped under 80 million since Q2 of 2009, the time of the global economic crisis.

The research firms differed when it came to who to blame for these results, with Gartner pointing to the growing proliferation of smartphones and tablets, and IDC instead blaming poor demand for Windows 8.

"In the first quarter of 2013, it was the fourth consecutive quarter that showed a drop in worldwide PC shipments," said Gartner principal analyst Mikako Kitagawa.

"Consumers are migrating content consumption from PCs to other connected devices, such as tablets and smartphones. Even emerging markets, where PC penetration is low, are not expected to be a strong growth area for PC vendors.”

Kitagawa did add that there was still strong demand for professional PCs.

"At this point, unfortunately, it seems clear that the Windows 8 launch not only failed to provide a positive boost to the PC market, but appears to have slowed the market," said IDC analyst Bob O'Donnell.

"While some consumers appreciate the new form factors and touch capabilities of Windows 8, the radical changes to the UI, removal of the familiar Start button, and the costs associated with touch have made PCs a less attractive alternative to dedicated tablets and other competitive devices. Microsoft will have to make some very tough decisions moving forward if it wants to help reinvigorate the PC market."

Looking at the results by vendor, both analyst firms concurred that HP maintained the market lead, albeit with significantly reduced shipments.

Gartner said that the company still has challenges in the consumer and professional markets, while IDC noted declines across all regions, something it put down in part to internal restructuring.

Dell and Acer also saw “substantial declines”, while Asus suffered after ceasing netbook shipments

There was good news for Lenovo however, with Gartner highlighting the firm as the “only top-five vendor to achieve shipment growth”. The researcher put the firm’s strong showing down to aggressive pricing in the consumer and professional PC markets.

IDC added that Apple’s PC sales suffered slightly from increasing demand for the iPad.

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