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PC market makes a comeback

The PC market is in a state of flux, with shipments expected to fall in 2015 but grow in 2016 and 2017, according to the IDC Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker.

IDC predicts worldwide PC shipments to fall by -4.9% in 2015, a drop from the previous forecast of -3.3%. However, growth projections for 2016 and 2017 are raised slightly.

Fourth quarter 2014 (4Q14) results were 1.7% ahead of forecast, but economic and product changes will make growth slower in the short term, IDC says.

Total PC volume is expected to be 293.1 million in 2015, and drop to 291.4 million in 2019.

In value terms, the PC market reached US$201 billion in 2014, a decline of -0.8%. This is expected to fall another -6.9% in 2015. By 2019, the total value of the PC market is expected to be US$175 billion.

Mature regions continued to fare better than emerging markets, ending 2014 with positive growth of 8.4% for the year, the first growth year since 2010.

This growth was supported by XP system replacements, slowing tablet purchases, and aggressive PC pricing.

Nevertheless, PC volumes in mature regions are expected to drop by -5.1% in 2015 with incremental declines thereafter.

Building on the strength of 2014 volume as well as attractive products in the premium and low-priced segments, projections for PC volume in mature regions are up slightly to 134 million in 2019 from the prior forecast of 130 million, says IDC.

The introduction of Windows 10 later this year is expected to be well received and support the Windows ecosystem, including some replacements.

However, it will also provide a better experience with mouse and keyboard, effectively relieving some pressure to move toward touch, and support non-PC devices like 2-in-1s, likely without boosting total PC shipments significantly.

"The gains in mature regions for 2014 helped stabilise the market, but any opportunity for long-term growth depends on reviving growth in emerging regions, and that seems unlikely with the shift toward mobile devices," says Loren Loverde, Worldwide PC Trackers vice president.

"Even including 2-in-1 systems would only boost the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for total PC shipments through 2019 from -1.1% to 0.5%.

“Vendors can focus on growth segments of the PC market such as AIO, slim and convertible PCs, or consolidate share, but pressure on pricing and from competing devices will continue to make it a challenging market," Loverde.

During the second half of 2014, portions of the overall market saw improvements in demand, says IDC.

For instance, part of the 4Q14 volume was inflated by an inventory build-up of "Windows 8.1 + Bing" systems in anticipation of Microsoft scaling back subsidies in early 2015.

IDC expects the short term impact to hit consumer channels as they work to clear stock.

In addition, average prices are likely to rise in the near term with the scaling back of Bing subsidies, the strong US Dollar (which makes systems more expensive abroad), and the continuing shift to slim, convertible, and touch-based systems.

Furthermore, while recent processor updates have generated positive reception, more significant product refreshes from the likes of Intel (Skylake platform) and Microsoft (Windows 10) will be released later in the year, shifting OEM product updates and consumer interest toward later in 2015.

"Fortunately for PC makers, tablet growth has slowed," says Jay Chou, Worldwide PC Trackers senior research analyst.

“The PC ecosystem has also begun to see some fruits from efforts to narrow the divide between the PC and mobile devices in terms of both user experience and price points.

“Nevertheless, much more needs to be done as advances in both hardware and software are expected to benefit an ever wider spectrum of form factors, such as 2-in-1 devices that will further siphon volume from notebooks," says Chou.