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Worst decline in PC history as industry “bottoms out”

13 Jan 2014

PC markets have “bottomed out” across the world, as the industry endures the seventh consecutive quarter of shipment decline, the worst in PC history.

Preliminary results by Gartner claim worldwide PC shipments totalled 82.6 million units in the fourth quarter of 2013, a 6.9 percent decline from the fourth quarter of 2012.

"Although PC shipments continued to decline in the worldwide market in the fourth quarter, we increasingly believe markets, such as the U.S., have bottomed out as the adjustment to the installed base slows," says Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst, Gartner.

"Strong growth in tablets continued to negatively impact PC growth in emerging markets.

“In emerging markets, the first connected device for consumers is most likely a smartphone, and their first computing device is a tablet.

“As a result, the adoption of PCs in emerging markets will be slower as consumers skip PCs for tablets."

HP and Lenovo have been virtually neck and neck for the top global position in the PC market throughout 2013, with the Chinese tech firm taking the lead in the fourth quarter, as it did last quarter, accounting for 18.1 percent of global PC shipments.

Lenovo's victory over the top position became apparent in 4Q13, with the company demonstrating strong growth in all regions, except Asia/Pacific, where China continued to be a problematic country for the company.

HP on the other hand experienced a shipments decline of 7.2 percent in the fourth quarter, with the US and Latin America the two regions where HP could not increase its shipments, and it experienced a steeper decline compared with the regional average.

Dell continued to maintain the third position and accounted for 11.8 percent of the market. With the completion of the leveraged buyout, Dell has redefined its strategic focus onto its PC and device businesses.

Dell's focus is now beyond its traditional strength in the professional PC market; its focus is now also on consumer PCs, particularly in emerging markets.

Acer and Asus's ranking remained unchanged compared with a year ago. Both companies have more focus on tablets, and their fourth-quarter results clearly proved their strategic focus.

Kitagawa says Acer has established a strong position in the Chromebook market, while Asus has built a solid reputation as a tablet vendor. PCs are still strategic products for both companies, but share gain is not the top priority for them.

In the US, PC shipments totalled 15.8 million units in the fourth quarter of 2013, a 7.5 percent decline from the fourth quarter of 2012.

Despite a 10.3 percent decline in shipments, HP continued to be the No. 1 vendor in the US, as it accounted for 26.5 percent of shipments.

"Holiday sales of technology products were strong in the U.S. market, but consumer spending during the holidays did not come back to PCs as tablets were one of the hottest holiday items," Kitagawa says.

"We think that the US PC market has bottomed out. A variety of new form factors, such as hybrid notebooks, drew holiday shoppers' attention, but the market size was very small at the time.

"Lowering the price point of thin and light products started encouraging the PC replacement and potentially some PC growth in 2014."

PC shipments in Asia/Pacific totaled 26.5 million units in the fourth quarter of 2013, a 9.8 percent decline from the fourth quarter of 2012 as buyers did not place a priority on PC purchases, preferring to spend on alternative devices such as smartphones.

Some continued to delay their purchases of a PC as their requirements, such as entertainment and information access, can be addressed by other devices, such as tablets.

For the year, PC shipments were 315.9 million units, a 10 percent decline from 2012, which is the worst decline in PC market history, equal to the shipment level in 2009.

Lenovo took over the top spot in the global PC market, accounting for 16.9 percent of the market while HP moved into the second spot after experiencing shipment decline of 9.3 percent.

What next for the PC market? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below

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