Groaning under the pressure from smartphones and tablets, the mobile PC market delivered the worst second-quarter performance in 11 years, according to data released by analytics firm IHS.
According to the report, worldwide mobile PC shipments during the second quarter contracted by 6.9 percent compared to the first three months of the year. This is the first time the industry has seen a sequential decline since the second quarter of 2002, where mobile PC shipments shrank by 3.7 percent after the dot.com bust quelled global demand.
Crunching the numbers even further, IHS noted that during the 10 years between those two low points, the mobile PC space always strengthened during the second quarter as shipments recovered from a normally soft start to the year. Excluding 2002 and this year, the usual growth during this period for the intervening years ranged from a low of 0.5 percent to a high of 6.5 percent. Even during the second quarter of last year the market showed a 3.9 percent increase for the period.
"Representing devices such as traditional notebook PCs as well as the new thinner ultrathin/Ultrabook laptops, the mobile PC industry on the whole is struggling to find any momentum for growth as upheavals rock the market," said Craig Stice, senior principal analyst for compute platforms at IHS in a statement to ZDNet.
"In particular, more nimble devices like media tablets have taken over among consumers given their ease of use and unique form factor. Meanwhile, innovation in PCs has stagnated, and the recent influx of low-cost tablets has further eaten into an already decimated mobile PC space. With such dire numbers, many are wondering whether this signifies the start of more record declines for mobile PCs, or if the industry has hit rock-bottom."
But it's not all bad news for the PC industry, with IHS believing that a PC refresh buying cycle is more than likely to occur.
"Despite the broad appeal of media tablets, the devices won’t be able to fully replace PCs, and consumers will continue to need the computational power of personal computers," Stice said. "If a new low-cost PC offering strong performance can become available on the market and meet consumer expectations, then PCs could be set for more growth—not like the glory days of the 2000s—but growth nonetheless."
But even this silver lining has a cloud, with IHS pointing out that 2013 is "very likely a write-off at this point" because "it’s too late given the depressed first-half results that any positive expansion could occur in both the mobile PC segment and the overall PC market."