End of Windows XP support slowing PC industry bleed, says Gartner

Summary:Don't expect a turnaround from the PC industry just yet. Global shipments dropped between one and five percent during the first quarter, depending on varying analyst reports.

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Worldwide PC shipments dropped (again) during the first quarter, and how badly things slipped depends on which market research firm you follow more.

The IDC reported a sharper drop, albeit not as badly as expected, with an estimated decline of 4.4 percent annually versus a prediction of 5.3 percent lower. That equated to roughly 73.4 million shipped worldwide during the quarter.

Gartner, on the other hand, responded with an observed drop of only 1.7 percent year-over-year with 76.6 million units shipped.

Such a disparity between results, typically published simultaneously after market close once each quarter, can be common, often coming down to a difference in definition.

IDC categorizes PCs to include desktops, portables, ultraslim notebooks, and workstations but not "handhelds, x86 Servers and Tablets (i.e. iPad, Tablets with detachable keyboards running either Windows or Android)." Whereas Gartner counts "desk-based PCs and mobile PCs, including x86 tablets equipped with Windows 8, but excludes Chromebooks and other tablets."

Regardless, there might be a bigger takeaway here, which is further speculation that the PC industry slow down (or slow death, to some) might actually be slowing down.

Gartner is accrediting Microsoft's decision to end support for Windows XP, a move regarded controversial by some but maybe offers a silver lining after all.

Mikako Kitagawa, a principal analyst at Gartner, said as much in Wednesday's report, adding that the PC industry is showing signs of improvement, albeit faster in regions such as Europe, the Middle East and Africa more so than the United States.

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. Among key countries, Japan was greatly affected by the end of XP support, registering a 35 percent year-over-year increase in PC shipments. The growth was also boosted by sales tax change. We expect the impact of XP migration worldwide to continue throughout 2014.

Loren Loverde, vice president of the Worldwide PC Trackers team at IDC, concurred as much to say that "the economic front seems to be gradually stabilizing and/or improving," suggesting that the PC industry might mirror this movement. However, he warned that while there "is potential for PC shipments to stabilize," there is "not much opportunity for growth."

Yet, Rajani Singh, a senior research analyst covering personal computing at IDC, was a little more optimistic by noting that "PC shipment growth in the United States remained slightly faster than most other regions in the first quarter."

But Singh quickly ended that positive train-of-thought by concluding "the passing boost from XP replacements, constrained consumer demand, and no clear driver of a market rebound are expected to keep growth below zero going forward."

As far as the power players are concerned, most of the vendor scoreboards remain about the same.

Lenovo and HP led both analyst reports on a global basis, respectively. Domestically, the two swapped with HP on top and Lenovo in second, according to both IDC and Gartner.

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Charts via IDC, Gartner

Topics: Hardware, Lenovo, PCs, Tech Industry, Windows

About

Rachel King is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in San Francisco, covering business and enterprise technology for ZDNet, CNET and SmartPlanet. She has previously worked for The Business Insider, FastCompany.com, CNN's San Francisco bureau and the U.S. Department of State. Rachel has also written for MainStreet.com, Irish Americ... Full Bio

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