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Despite Conflicting Reports, Signs Point to PC Growth

PC shipments have increased for the first time in five years, according to the latest quarterly report issued by market researcher IDC. The first quarter IDC PC Device Tracker report from IDC, which also showed HP regaining the top position from Lenovo, showed that the 60.3 million units shipped worldwide during the period represented a year-over-year growth of 0.6 percent.

While the increase may appear negligible, it was a surprise increase versus a projected 1.8 percent  decline, according to IDC, which revealed the quarterly report yesterday (on the same day Microsoft released its new Windows 10 "creators update"). The growth spurt is particularly surprising, given the beginning of the year is historically slow for pc sales.

Jay Chou, research manager of IDC's PC Tracker reports, noted in a statement that competition from tablets and smartphones, along with longer PC lifecycles, have pushed PC shipments down 30 percent since the peak at the end of 2011. Though he disputed the notion that those devices are the reason for the declining growth.

"Users have generally delayed PC replacements rather than giving up PCs for other devices," Chou stated. "The commercial market is beginning a replacement cycle that should drive growth throughout the forecast. Consumer demand will remain under pressure, although growth in segments like PC gaming as well as rising saturation of tablets and smartphones will move the consumer market toward stabilization as well."

Despite the first uptick in global PC shipments since 2012, the U.S. market wasn't a contributor to that growth. According to IDC, the overall PC market in the U.S. declined slightly with shipments of 13.3 million units. The report noted strong demand for Chromebooks as well.

HP Back on Top
It appears HP was a key driver of last quarter's surprise surge. Shipments for the quarter rose 13.1 percent, making it the market-leading supplier of PCs for the first time since 2013, when it ceded the top spot to Lenovo, which dropped to the No. 2 position. HP shipped 13.1 million units in the first quarter, compared with 11.6 million during the same period last year, giving it 21.8 percent of the market, compared with 19.4 percent share year-over-year.  Lenovo shipped 12.3 million units, giving it a 20.4 percent share of the market.

Dell, the No. 3 supplier, saw a 6.2 percent growth with 9.6 million units shipped. Apple came in fourth with 4.2 million shipments, up 4.1 percent and Acer's 4.1 million systems shipped represented a 2.9 percent increase in shipments. Outside the five top players, the rest, lumped together as "other" saw an 11.4 percent decline.  

Despite IDC's optimistic report, rival Gartner's quarterly findings, also released yesterday, contracted those findings, reporting a 2.4 percent overall decline. According to its report, it was the first time global PC shipments fell below the 63 million unit threshold. Likewise, while HP took the top spot in U.S. shipments, Lenovo retained its leadership globally, though the latter's growth was considerably lower.

It's not the first time the two firms had contradictory reports because they use different tracking methods and metrics. The two did agree on the fact that the top three players, -- Dell, HP and Lenovo -- will battle it out among enterprises. "The market has extremely limited opportunities for vendors below the top three, with the exception of Apple, which has a solid customer base in specific verticals," said Gartner Principal Analyst Mikako Kitagawa, in a statement.

Depending on whose numbers you buy into, the PC business in 2017 has either gotten off to a surprisingly good start, or has yet to hit rock bottom. In either case, despite this week's release of the Windows 10 creators update, it may be premature to say we've entered the post post-PC era.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 04/12/2017 at 2:29 PM


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