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Smartphones elbow aside PCs as ‘uncommitted’ users delay their upgrades

old school

Old School via Flickr © Federico Feroldi Foto (CC BY-SA 2.0)

  • Smartphone enthusiasts keep their PCs longer as shipments decline
  • PC enthusiasts are still buying, but they're outnumbered
  • Plus: PC shipments by vendor (a handy table)

Leading analyst group, Gartner, says that worldwide PC shipments have stagnated for the fifth year in row and it’s worked out the reason why: if you use your smartphone for most things, even things that you used to do on your PC (we’re talking about developed markets here), then you need a really compelling reason to upgrade your PC since it’s only getting occasional use.

So buying behaviour has naturally changed, it says, and it has the numbers to prove it.

Garter says that its preliminary results for 2016 show that worldwide PC shipments totaled 72.6 million units in the fourth quarter of 2016, a 3.7 per cent decline from the fourth quarter of 2015. For the year, 2016 PC shipments totaled 269.7 million units, a rather substantial 6.2 per cent decline from 2015 but in line with annual declines since 2012.  That was the year, give or take one or two, when both Android and iPhone sales really kicked in.

Of course for many people - especially people such as ourselves in ‘glued-to-screen’ occupations - it’s not a one or the other choice. My computer refresh rate has, if anything, probably picked up since 2012 despite the arrival of the expensive smartphone and Gartner has an answer for that as well. "The broad PC market has been static as technology improvements have not been sufficient to drive real market growth, said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner. “There have been innovative form factors like 2-in-1s and thin and light notebooks, as well as technology improvements, such as longer battery life, so this end of the market has grown fast, led by engaged PC users (us lot)  who put high priority on PCs. However, the market driven by PC enthusiasts is not big enough to drive overall market growth."

Kitagawa identifies a consumer segment in the market where PCs are infrequently used. “Consumers in this segment have high dependency on smartphones, so they stretch PC life cycles longer. This side of the market is much bigger than the PC enthusiast segment, so steep declines in the infrequent PC user market have been offsetting the fast growth of the PC enthusiast market."

For that reason she sees continuing decline, at least in the next year.

Who’s doing best in a declining market?

Preliminary Worldwide PC Vendor Unit Shipment Estimates for 4Q16 (Thousands of Units)

 

Company

4Q16 Shipments

4Q16 Market Share (%)

4Q15 Shipments

4Q15 Market Share (%)

4Q16-4Q15 Growth (%)

Lenovo

15,781

21.7

15,535

20.6

1.6

HP Inc.

14,808

20.4

14,204

18.8

4.3

Dell

10,723

14.8

10,175

13.5

5.4

Asus

5,452

7.5

5,960

7.9

-8.5

Apple

5,440

7.5

5,312

7.0

2.4

Acer Group

4,999

6.9

5,228

6.9

-4.4

Others

15,408

21.2

18,970

25.2

-18.8

Total

72,611

100.0

75,384

100.0

-3.7

Source: Gartner (January 2017)

Notes: Data includes desk-based PCs, notebook PCs and ultramobile premiums (such as Microsoft Surface), but not Chromebooks or iPads. All data is estimated based on a preliminary study. Final estimates will be subject to change. The statistics are based on shipments selling into channels.

​Four of the top six vendors experienced an increase in worldwide PC shipments in the fourth quarter of 2016 (see above). The top three vendors all increased their global market share in the fourth quarter. Lenovo maintained the No. 1 position, as the company experienced shipment increases in North America and EMEA, while Asia/Pacific and Japan continued to be challenging markets.

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