PC shipments fall again but could stabilize on holiday demand: IDC

Gartner also released bleak PC shipment data, citing a weak back-to-school season and poor sales in emerging markets.

The PC market continues to fall, but according to IDC, declines in the third quarter weren't as bad as expected.

The research firm's latest PC tracker data suggests Q3 shipments declined by 3.9 percent compared to the same quarter last year -- 3.2 percent ahead of projections -- as the PC industry attempts to stabilize following a multiyear inventory surplus. Notably, shipments of Apple computers dropped by 13 percent, far outpacing the industry overall in terms of decline.

PC makers shipped nearly 68 million units globally in the period, down from 70.7 million a year earlier. The top five vendors in IDC's results were Lenovo, HP, Dell, Apple, and Asus.

IDC points to PC vendors rebuilding inventory for the second half of the year and competing more aggressively ahead of the holiday season.

Still, IDC analyst Linn Huang cautioned that signs of a PC market turnaround could be misleading.

"Although we've now seen two consecutive quarters of strong market growth, we believe the strong market performance has less to do with strengthening demand and more to do with increased appetite from the channel for inventory," Huang said. "We will need a strong holiday season to ensure that we don't enter 2017 in a poor inventory situation."

Gartner's Q3 report on PC shipments, also released today, was much less sunny. The research firm said worldwide PC shipments totaled 68.9 million units in the period, a 5.7 percent decline compared to last year.

The top six vendors were Lenovo, HP, Dell, Asus, Apple, and Acer.

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Gartner cited a weak back-to-school season and poor sales in emerging markets for the continued decline.

"In emerging markets, PC penetration is low, but consumers are not keen to own PCs," said Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa, in a statement. "Consumers in emerging markets primarily use smartphones or tablets for their computing needs, and they don't find the need to use a PC as much as consumers in mature markets."

The analyst reports come just a few weeks after Intel raised its forecast for third-quarter sales last month. The chipmaker said the increase was "primarily driven by replenishment of PC supply chain inventory." Intel said it's also seeing "some signs of improving PC demand."

As always, it's worth noting that IDC and Gartner count devices with a detachable keyboard, such as Surface Pro and Surface Book, differently. IDC leaves this class of device out of the PCs category completely.

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