The tablet revolution that was supposed to kill the PC industry is fading and people are buying new computers again.
That’s according to the leading research firms tracking PC sales. They simultaneously issued reports today saying that computer sales were better than expected during the third quarter, which includes critical back-to-school sales.
Both Gartner and IDC said the PC free-fall is ending, particularly in the U.S. and Europe. where sales are growing, and the leading PC makers all saw big gains.
“Positive results in Western Europe and North America can be a sign of gradual recovery for the PC industry,” Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner, said in a release.
Gartner said global PC sales fell 0.5 percent during the quarter while IDC said they fell 1.7 percent, far better than the 4.1 percent drop that IDC had predicted earlier.
In the U.S., PC sales grew 4.3 percent compared with the same period last year, IDC said. Gartner pegged the U.S. gain at 4.2 percent.
This is nowhere near the boom times earlier in the decade but it’s a dramatic reversal from just a few years ago when the PC industry seemed to be imploding under pressure from Apple’s iPad and other tablets.
“Consumers’ attention is slowly going back to PC purchases as tablet adoption peaked with mainstream consumers. The transition from PCs to tablets has faded as tablet penetration has reached the 40-50 percent range,” Kitagawa said.
Apple may try to turn things around with a refresh of its iPad line that it’s expected to unveil at an Oct. 16 event. But Applealso is benefiting from resurging PC sales; IDC said the global share of Apple PCs has reached 6.3 percent, inching ahead of fifth-place vendor Asus. Gartner saw Asus holding on to fifth place globally.
PC sales in emerging markets fell, dragging down the total. Kitagawa said that in those regions, the PC market is saturated and people who don’t yet have PCs are likely to start by buying a low-priced tablet instead.
It’s not time for champagne, though. Compared with previous back-to-school seasons, the third quarter was relatively weak, IDC noted.
Growth is coming largely from lower-priced systems, raising questions about “the long-term viability of vendors to adequately remain in the PC space,” IDC analyst Jay Chou said in a release. Toshiba announced during the quarter that it’s withdrawing from the PC business, following decisions by Sony and Samsung earlier in the year to phase down their PC production.
Looking ahead, IDC expects “a healthy holiday season,” but growth may be tempered by low demand for large-scale business PC purchasing.
Gartner also expects holiday PC sales to get a boost from falling prices for “thin and light” laptops, more affordable touchscreen laptops and “2-in-1 hybrid” systems, which function as either a tablet or laptop.