IDC predicts continued PC slump, tablet dominance

May 29, 2013 // 10:46 a.m.

Tags: #analyst #desktop #financial #idc #laptop #lenovo #pc-market #post-pc #post-pc-era #sales #tablet #tablet-market

Industry watcher International Data Corporation (IDC) has warned that the PC market is going to get worse before it gets better, predicting that desktop shipments will continue to fall right through to 2017.

In the company's most recent report, the market analyst claims that it predicts worldwide PC shipments to fall by almost 8 per cent by the end of the year - a significant of its earlier prediction of a 1.3 per cent decline. Those figures will continue to slip, albeit at a slower pace, until 2017 when the company's forecasts end - at which point worldwide desktop PC shipments will have dropped to a predicted 123.9 million from 2012's recorded 148.3 million.

'As the market develops, usage patterns and devices are evolving,' claimed Loren Loverde, programme vice president in charge of the quarterly PC tracker report at IDC. 'Many users are realising that everyday computing, such as accessing the web, connecting to social media, sending emails, as well as using a variety of apps, doesn't require a lot of computing power or local storage. Instead, they are putting a premium on access from a variety of smaller devices with longer battery life, an instant-on function, and intuitive touch-centric interfaces. These users have not necessarily given up on PCs as a platform for computing when a more robust environment is needed, but this takes a smaller share of computing time, and users are making do with older systems.'

IDC's report sees a depressed overall market for both desktop and portable PCs - a taxonomic category which, in IDC's methodology, includes laptops and netbooks but does not include hand-held devices or tablet computers - right through to the end of its forecasts in 2017. According to the company's latest quarterly report, it predicts that desktop PC shipments will have declined year-on-year by a massive 9.3 per cent by the end of this year with the bulk of that loss sustained by what the company classifies as 'mature markets' - at 10.5 per cent - compared to emerging markets - at 8.7 per cent.

The market for portable computers is expected to have dropped by 6.7 per cent by the end of the year, but will show mild growth by 2017 with claims of a 3.6 per cent increase in shipments - contrasting with a 1.9 per cent dip for desktop machines.

The company's quarterly tablet tracker report, published contemporaneously with the PC tracker, extends IDC's support of an increasingly post-PC market with claims that shipments of tablets will surpass those of portable PCs by the end of the year - and, more surprisingly, surpass overall PC sales by the end of 2015. 'What started as a sign of tough economic times has quickly shifted to a change in the global computing paradigm with mobile being the primary benefactor,' claimed Ryan Reith, IDC's mobile programme manager, of his team's report.

'Tablets surpassing portables in 2013, and total PCs in 2015, marks a significant change in consumer attitudes about compute devices and the applications and ecosystems that power them. IDC continues to believe that PCs will have an important role in this new era of computing, especially among business users. But for many consumers, a tablet is a simple and elegant solution for core use cases that were previously addressed by the PC.'

IDC's figures suggest that tablets - defined by the company as all LCD- or OLED-based slate devices with screens of between 9" and 16" with or without removable keyboards, but not counting convertible devices with a non-removable keyboard like the Lenovo Yoga - will become the dominant computing device within the next two years, thanks to a steadily decreasing cost and the realisation by most users that you don't need a hex-core multi-gigahertz processor to browse Facebook and watch films.

The most popular tablets, IDC claims, will be sub-8" models, accounting for 55 per cent of the market by year's end and 57 per cent by 2017. The bulk of the remainder will be tablets in 8-11" screen sizes, with just 6 per cent of the market being made up of larger-format 11"-plus tablets by 2017.

'Apple's success in the education market has proven that tablets can be used as more than just a content consumption or gaming device,' claimed Jitesh Ubrani, IDC research analyst, of the report. 'These devices are learning companions, and as tablet prices continue to drop, the dream of having a PC for every child gets replaced with the reality that we can actually provide a tablet for every child.'

With traditional PC manufacturers continuing to struggle with a depressed market - and those who have a post-PC product line already in place, like Lenovo, holding their own - it's clear that the industry is going through a sea change that will likely result in some big names falling by the wayside should IDC's predictions prove true.

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