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Opportunities still exist for PC vendors, despite struggling market

23 May 2016

It's no secret that PC shipments are on the decline - in the first quarter of 2016 the PC market registered one of its lowest quarterly growth rates - however, Gartner says significant profit opportunities still exist for vendors.

"PCs are no longer the first or only devices users are choosing for internet access," says Meike Escherich, Gartner principal research analyst.

"Over the last five years, global shipments of traditional PCs (desktops and notebooks) have fallen from 343 million units in 2012 to an estimated 232 million units in 2016. In terms of revenue, the global PC market has contracted from $219 billion in 2012 to an expected $122 billion in 2016,” he says.

At present, Gartner says many vendors in the mid-tier of the PC ecosystem are struggling.

"They are severely reducing their regional and country-level presence, or leaving the PC market altogether," says Escherich.

"Between them, Acer, Fujitsu, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba have lost 10.5% market share since 2011. In the first quarter of 2016, Dell, HP Inc. and Lenovo gained market share but recorded year-over-year declines,” she says.

Regional markets are also changing, Gartner finds. Low oil prices and political uncertainties are driving economic tightening in certain regions, changing countries like Brazil and Russia from drivers of growth to market laggards. In terms of volume, the U.S., China, Germany, the U.K. and Japan remain the top five, but consumers in these markets have also been cutting their number of PCs per household, Gartner says.

"Nevertheless, PCs are still able to deliver in areas that smartphones and tablets cannot, with larger screens, ergonomic keyboards, greater storage and more powerful computer processors," says Tracy Tsai, research vice president at Gartner.

"With an oversaturated market and falling average selling prices (ASPs), PC vendors must focus on optimising profitability to sustain growth,” Tsai says.

Capture growing demand for ultramobile premium

Despite a declining PC market, the ultramobile premium segment is on pace to achieve revenue growth this year - the only segment set to do so, Gartner says. It is estimated to reach $34.6 billion, an increase of 16% from 2015. In 2019, Gartner forecasts that the ultramobile premium segment will become the largest segment of the PC market in revenue terms, at $57.6 billion.

"The ultramobile premium market is also more profitable in comparison with the low-end segment, where PCs priced at $500 or less have 5% gross margins," says Tsai.

"The gross margin can reach up to 25% for high-end ultramobile premium PCs priced at $1,000 or more,” she says.

The segment will continue to grow thanks to replacement demand for traditional PCs and the touch experience that the two-in-one market (tablets and hybrids) provides, says Gartner. While the ASP for the ultramobile premium segment is not expected to fall rapidly, it will eventually move toward $600 in constant-currency terms.

This situation, together with innovative two-in-one products, will entice users to not only replace their PC, but also look to upgrade to a device with more functionality and flexibility, Gartner finds.

PC vendors need to adjust their portfolio of ultramobile premiums in markets such as mature Asia/Pacific and Japan, where the ultramobile premium segment continues to grow, the analysts say.

Capitalise on long-term profitability of gaming PC market

While the gaming PC market is a very small market with only a few million units sold a year, the ASP of a gaming PC is significantly higher than that of a nongaming PC, according to Gartner. ASPs range from $850 for an entry-level gaming PC notebook to $1,500 for a premium model.

"The high-end, purpose-built gaming PC segment (for example, $1,000 or more) is where PC vendors should focus for long-term profitability, despite this segment's competitiveness," says Tsai.

The Internet of Things Is ripe with opportunity

PC vendors also need to turn to the Internet of Things (IoT) market and identify which of its areas have most potential for profit, says Gartner. For example, PC vendors can use the IoT to improve customer service and product improvement.

"Vendors could detect with sensors if a battery is getting too hot or a hard-disk drive is being overworked, and they could send an alert to customers to get PCs checked before they suddenly go down.

"This would save vendors' operating costs and also helps users with better service," says Tsai.

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