The future of the PC remains cloudy after slow sales in 2014 but a few bright spots are emerging, according to research firm IDC’s quarterly market report.
IDC said 308.6 million PCs were shipped last year, down 2.1 percent from 2013. That included 80.8 million systems shipped during the fourth quarter, when sales were better than expected – declining 2.4 percent versus the 4.8 percent that IDC had expected.
Sales in the U.S. have been relatively strong, outpacing the global PC market, while sales in Asia are improving, the firm said.
Business demand has tapered off after a rush to upgrade off of aging Windows XP systems but consumer demand is picking up, particularly in the U.S.
Rival research firm Gartner also issued its quarterly report today, with a slightly more upbeat take on the market.
Gartner estimated that global PC shipments were up 1 percent in the fourth quarter and the industry ended the year flat, with a 0.2 percent decline in shipments.
“The PC market is quietly stabilizing after the installed base reduction driven by users diversifying their device portfolios,” Mikako Kitagawa, Gartner principal analyst, said in a release.
The displacement of PCs by tablets peaked in 2013 and the first half of 2014, according to Kitagawa.
“Now that tablets have mostly penetrated some key markets, consumer spending is slowly shifting back to PCs,” she said.
(I wrote today’s column on PCs at CES before seeing these reports …).
In addition to the XP upgrades, the market has been helped by low-priced systems such as Chromebooks and promotions such as discounts on systems configurations with Microsoft’s Bing search engine. But those boosters may fade and “cast a shadow of doubt on the strength of the market going into 2015,” Loren Loverde, IDC vice president, said in a release.
Still, the firm expects consumer PC sales to finally return to positive growth in 2015 as tablet sales slow, the PC industry steps up its efforts and Windows 10 arrives.
While the overall market slowed, the big PC makers were on a roll last quarter. Market leader Lenovo saw shipments grow 4.9 percent last year while HP and Dell grew shipments 15.1 percent and 8.5 percent, respectively, according to IDC.
Here are IDC’s estimates of 2014 shipments by the leading firms; Gartner’s are similar but it puts Asus in fifth place with 7.2 percent of the market, knocking Apple from the top five:
HP did particularly well in the U.S. during the holiday season, with 26.2 percent growth in PC shipments, according to IDC:
Here is Gartner’s ranking of U.S. shipments and market leaders in the fourth quarter: