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Brier Dudley's blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

October 9, 2013 at 6:01 PM

Windows PC sales finally pick up in U.S. but will it last?

PC sales finally rebounded a bit during the back-to-school season in the U.S.

Globally they’re still falling, though, according to reports from the big research firms Gartner and IDC.

Gartner said global shipments during the third quarter were down 8.6 percent, to 80.3 million units, compared to the same period last year.  IDC said global sales were down 7.6 percent — better than the 9.5 percent drop it had projected.

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Business sales picked up and the biggest PC makers saw positive growth, IDC noted, but the firm expects further declines next year.

“Whether constrained by a weak economy or being selective in their tech investments, buyers continue to evaluate options and delay PC replacements,” IDC Vice President Loren Loverde said in a release. “Despite being a little ahead of forecast, and the work that’s being done on new designs and integration of features like touch, the third quarter results suggest that there’s still a high probability that we will see another decline in worldwide shipments in 2014.”

In the U.S., PC sales rebounded with a 3.5 percent gain according to Gartner. IDC said U.S. sales “stabilized” with only a 0.2 percent decline.

This marks a turning point after years of steep declines in PC sales, which analysts attribute partly to the rise of tablet devices, starting with Apple’s iPad and more recently the spread of less expensive Android tablets.

It appears that “the U.S. market may have passed the worst declining stage, which started in 2010,” Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa said in a release.

“The shrinking installed base of PCs has also passed the steepest decline phase because the structural change has progressed fairly quickly,” she said. “Tablets will continue to impact the PC market, but the U.S. PC market will see a more moderate decrease rather than a steep decline in the next two years.”

Perhaps ironically given its role popularizing tablets, Apple saw significant declines in PC shipments. Gartner said Mac shipments fell 2.3 percent during the back-to-school quarter, while IDC said they fell 11.2 percent.

In contrast, the biggest Windows PC makers saw gains during the quarter. PC shipments by HP were up 3.5 percent, Dell’s were up 2.3 percent and Lenovo’s were up 25.8 percent, according to IDC.

If IDC had counted only Windows PCs and not Macs, it would have reported a 1.5 percent gain in U.S. PC sales during the quarter, according to Loverde. Kitagawa said Macs’ share is too small to affect the global market, contributing less than 1 percent to its decline.

Neither firm is yet counting Google’s fledgling Chromebooks in its quarterly PC reports because the platform still has a tiny share of the market. Kitagawa said they would account for around 2 percent to 3 percent of mobile PC shipments.

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