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Time to bin the traditional PC? IDC forecasts ongoing decline

01 Jun 18

The International Data Corporation (IDC) has released its latest statistics surrounding global shipments of personal computing devices (PCDs).

This is made up of traditional PCs (desktops, notebooks, and workstations) and tablets (both slate and detachable), of which the future looks very uncertain.

Global shipments of PCDs are expected to decline 3.5 percent year over year in 2018, an even steeper decline from the 2.7 percent in 2017.

The five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is also forecast to be a decline albeit with a slightly more optimistic note as the drop is just -1.8 percent.

However, one shouldn’t tar the entire market with the same brush, as IDC worldwide quarterly mobile device trackers program vice president Ryan Reith says when you ‘peel back the onion’ there are several pockets of opportunity and growth.

Convertible and ultraslim notebooks, as well as detachable tablets continue to be bright spots in a challenging market. All three product categories are expected to grow year over year throughout the forecast.

"Overall the challenges for traditional PCs and tablets remain the same as in past years. With notebook PCs it's clear that marketing and development resources are being poured into premium/gaming, convertibles, and thin and light devices,” says Reith.

“All OEMs, some of which are new to the space, seem to be laser focused on these areas. Detachable tablets are another area that has seen growth, however it currently feels like the trends around notebook growth opportunities have overshadowed detachable developments.”

Slate tablets hit their peak four years ago in 2014 and have been in decline ever since – IDC expects this to continue over the next five years with a CAGR of -6.2 percent. Interestingly, the overall decline has actually improved, but IDC asserts the category is still climbing an uphill battle with consumers spending more and more time on smartphones, in addition to having lifecycles that are more in line with traditional PCs.

Desktop PCs are also expected to decline at a five year CAGR of -2.6 percent. Consumer demand is still being usurped by commercial demand but the market remains saturated with supply and therefore isn’t expected to grow at any time during the five-year forecast.

Gaming has certainly been somewhat of a lifeboat for the consumer side, although IDC affirms two events that continue to pose challenges to the segment is that many gamers still choose to do manual upgrades while others elect for gaming notebooks.

"Despite the continuous decline of desktops, it's clear that not all are created alike as the growing demand for gaming PCs is bringing with it plenty of changes to the design and form factor of desktops while opening up opportunities for brands," says IDC quarterly personal computing device trackers senior research analyst Jitesh Ubrani.

"Consumers are increasingly valuing small and ultrasmall form factor desktops along with smaller components like low-profile graphics cards. Combine that with the progressively diverse base of gamers and it translates to a shift in gaming PCs from the gargantuan, RGB-lit towers of yesteryear to smaller, sleeker, and subtler boxes in the future."

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