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By the Numbers: Is the PC Market Shrinking?

is_the_pc_market_shrinking_400Those paying attention to technology industry news may have noticed the current trend of declining PC sales. Any way you spin it, the latest statistics dealing with the PC market are not favorable toward the future of widespread desktop and laptop computer purchases. Let’s take a look at some of the numbers and their implications for your business.

There’s been a noticeable decline in PC sales since a series of reports were published from Q3 of 2012. The International Data Corporation (IDC) along with Gartner reported that global PC shipments in Q3 of 2012 had fallen 8% from the previous year, marking a major shift in the dominant trend of PC sales.

Fast forward two years to the present, as IDC recently made the prediction that the PC market would be taking its largest hit in the history of the medium this year. They stated the decline to be “by far the most severe yearly contraction on record.” IDC predicts that the PC market will dive an additional 10% this year, and consumer sales will decline by 15%, resulting in 314.8 million in global PC sales; a figure that hasn’t been this low since 2008. In comparison, there were 349.4 million PC sales in 2012, a decline of around 35 million sales from the previous year.

The Gartner research group predicted a less severe cut to the PC market, stating that 2014 sales will be equal to last year’s, and could be followed by a very minor increase over the next few years. Mikako Kitagawa, Gartner’s principal research analyst stated, “Definitely not a decline”, on the subject of PC sales in 2014. She added, “We think that 2013 will see the worst decline in PC history. …The PC used to be the only device to connect to the Internet. Now there are many choices, and last year and this year have seen structural changes because of tablets and other mobile devices.” Paul Sloan, CNET Editor-in-Chief compared the situation with newspaper subscription fluctuations, “They’re just going to keep going down. Mobile is growing. Tablets are growing.”

In reality, PCs are still the dominant technology in most homes, as supported by Ovum’s Consumer Insights survey. The survey states that 68% of post-Thanksgiving Cyber Monday shoppers made purchases online using their desktop/laptop PCs. The survey also showed that mobile devices accounted for nearly one-third of online sales, testifying to the idea that mobile devices are capable of replacing PCs in the future.

Aside from the increase in mobile device purchases and usage, PC sale declines should not necessarily reflect poorly on the quality and utility of PCs. Could it be that PC sales are declining because people’s machines are so well built that they don’t need new ones? Jay Chou of IDC tends to think so, saying, “…PC usage has not moved significantly beyond consumption and productivity tasks to differentiate PCs from other devices. As a result, PC lifespans continue to increase, thereby limiting market growth.” Principal analyst at Technology Business Research, Zra Gettheil agrees, “Basically people are keeping their PCs longer.”

Another strong reality to take into consideration is how easy it is for businesses to do their work via PC as opposed to mobile devices. In fact, in some professions, the efficiency of work done via mobile devices doesn’t compare to that of the PC. This fact will definitely keep PCs in the game for the time being.

What do you think? Is the PC on its way out of the technology market? Could you see your business migrating to the sole use of mobile devices? Let us know in the comments section below.