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PC Market Decline Slowed on Sales of XP System Replacements

While global PC shipments continue to decline, the decrease was not as extreme as earlier analyst predictions for the first quarter of 2014.

According to market researcher IDC, worldwide PC shipments fell by 4.4 percent year over year in Q1, a better showing than the 5.3 percent drop the firm had initially projected. Research firm Gartner estimated the year-over-year decline was an even more modest 1.7 percent.

The preliminary findings from both firms, released Thursday, attributed the market's better-than-expected performance in part to replacement PC purchases made in response to Windows XP reaching its extended support deadline. The 13-year-old operating system reached the end of its extended support period on April 8, meaning consumers and organizations that remain on the OS will no longer receive regular security patches from Microsoft.

"The end of XP support by Microsoft on April 8 has played a role in the easing decline of PC shipments. All regions indicated a positive effect since the end of XP support stimulated the PC refresh of XP systems. Professional desktops, in particular, showed strength in the quarter," said Gartner principal analyst Mikako Kitagawa in a prepared statement. "We expect the impact of XP migration worldwide to continue throughout 2014."

Both Gartner and IDC also expect the PC market to benefit, albeit minimally, from a slowdown in tablet demand, caused by growing market saturation in some regions.

"The transition to more mobile devices and usage modes is unlikely to stop, although the short term impact on PC shipments may slow as tablet penetration rises -- as we've begun to see in some mature regions," said IDC's Loren Loverde. This was echoed by Gartner's Kitagawa, who noted, "The U.S. saw the gradual recovery of PC spending as the impact of tablets faded."

However, neither replacement purchases nor slowing tablet demand is likely to spur a turnaround in the ailing PC market anytime soon. IDC last month projected a 6 percent drop in the PC market for the whole of 2014, followed by three years of essentially zero growth. This week's findings are in line with those projections, according to Loverde.

"The net result remains consistent with our past forecasts -- in particular, that there is potential for PC shipments to stabilize, but not much opportunity for growth," Loverde said.

About the Author

Gladys Rama is the senior site producer for Redmondmag.com, RCPmag.com and MCPmag.com.

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