Gartner: 'Back-to-School' PC sales hit lowest point since 2008

Gartner: 'Back-to-School' PC sales hit lowest point since 2008

Summary: The numbers lined up with IDC for the most part, but Gartner painted a much darker picture.


Following up IDC's third quarter report on Wednesday, Gartner followed up with its own assessment of the PC industry. The numbers lined up for the most part, but Gartner painted a darker picture.

Gartner research found that worldwide PC shipments totaled 80.5 million units in the third quarter of 2013, concurring an approximate 8.6 percent decline from the same time last year.

According to the tech research firm, Q3 marks the "sixth consecutive quarter of declining worldwide shipments.

Mikako Kitagawa, a principal analyst at Gartner, also highlighted in the report that the "back-to-school" quarter hit its lowest point since 2008.

Why is this happening now? One could easily point to the cannibalization of PCs at the hands of mobile devices, based on Kitagawa's assessment.

Consumers' shift from PCs to tablets for daily content consumption continued to decrease the installed base of PCs both in mature as well as in emerging markets. A greater availability of inexpensive Android tablets attracted first-time consumers in emerging markets, and as supplementary devices in mature markets.

Most of the other market share allotments on both the global and U.S. playing fields were on par with what the IDC found -- except for two major sticking points.

The first would be Apple in the U.S. market. According to the IDC, the Mac maker was the only one of the top five vendors to lose market share during the third quarter on an annual basis, down approximately 11.2 percent.

But Gartner implies the decrease was minimal, only dropping by 2.3 percent annually.

Secondly, while the IDC report found the Asia/Pacific PC market as particularly worrying, analysts posited that "commercial buying in China was better than expected."

Gartner's depiction of the Chinese PC market was not as positive -- at least in regards to local brand Lenovo, reflecting that "weakness in the Chinese market continued to affect Lenovo's overall growth."

Instead, Gartner shined a spotlight on the second place vendor worldwide, HP, noting its market share growth exceeded the average across all regions except in Latin America with its first positive shipment growth since the first quarter of 2012.

Chart via Gartner

Topics: Tech Industry, Hardware, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, PCs

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  • You dont need to buy a computer for school.

    Beer and dirty women are better expenses.
    • Hahaha

      Double down on the Beer and the Dirty Women are free!
  • NO Sale

    Maybe the reason the PC sales are down for another reason the smart people can not understand. Everybody hates Windows 8.
  • I predicted that I wouldn't be buying another PC this year,

    and I was right. The reason being that, I already had a few PCs laying around the house, and also knew that each of them would last me a few more years.

    I had an iPad 3, and gave it away to my daughter, who was ecstatic about it the first couple of months she had it, but later realized that, she really had no real use for it, and went back to using her 2 year old PC. And guess what??? She didn't have to go and buy a new PC, since the one she had was good enough after 2 years, and could be good enough for at least 3 more. The iPad rests on a shelf in her house, and she does pick it up once in a blue moon, but, the people using it the most, are her twin 16 month old daughter, when they manage to knock it off the shelf. If my daughter had decided that the iPad was good enough for her everyday needs, she would probably have had to "upgrade" to the iPad 4. Meanwhile, she's a prudent shopper, just like me, and won't be wasting he money on a $600-$900 iPad. The problem for the PC vendors, and for Microsoft, is that, neither my daughter nor I need a new PC every 2 or 3 years, while tablet users need to upgrade every 2 or 3 years. Someday, when people begin to wise up, they'll realize that, they've been wasting a lot of money on purchasing tablets every 2 or 3 years, while they could have saved a lot of dough with getting a PC that will last them 10 years or more.

    But, heck, it's all about "wearing" the latest and greatest, and oftentimes, the coolest; though not the most practical.
    • I don't want to ruin your ego

      Trust me, the problem for traditional PC vendors, is not you... or me.
      The problem for them is that mobile devices are becoming a huge market and the ones like HP, Dell, Asus, ... are not gaining much with it.
      Your personal case is like a drop of rain in the ocean. I could say that since I have a smartphone and a tablet I stopped using the portable DVD player, my navigation system, my compact camera, my movie camera, my online shopping is made with the tablet, YouTube too, I started browsing the web on the sofa and not over the desk, my shopping list is made with evernote and used mainly on mobile, my car mechanic use a tablet now, POS at local restaurant too, I connect my tablet to the audio system of my living room or bedroom, I read 90% of my email on the tablet or smartphone... So who is setting the trend? you or me?!

      If you want to make believe that PCs are on the low because they are good enough for longer time - you're wrong. Well people don't feel the need to buy a new computer as before, but because of mobile devices mainly, Moore's law was a reality in the last 3 years as it was in the last 20, Windows 8 was launched sooner than any other windows version and it's different from the previous like never before, while I can say windows 8 is bad, I'm sure you don't think the same. Also in China where at each month another million can now buy a PC for the first time - mobile devices still dominate PCs regarding sales - that's not people with an old PC, they don't have a PC at all.
      • You think it's about my ego, but this is more about your ego,

        and your beliefs that, tablets and smartphones are adequate replacements for laptops and desktops. Fact is that, neither tablets nor smartphones, or a combination of both, can replace a PC of any kind.

        Fact remains that, people are still buying PCs, but not as often as in the past, but a big reason for the drop in PC sales has to do with the pure and undeniable fact that, a PC bought in the last 5 years or so, is still very functional and still a lot more powerful than any iPad or Android tablet. Notice that I didn't mention the Surface tablets or any other Windows 8 based tablets, since they are PCs that can also serve as tablets when needed.

        Another fact that you are not willing to acknowledge is that, tablets are evolving to becoming full-fledged PCs, except that they will be small-form-factor PCs. As time passes, there are more PC-like capabilities being added to those tablets, and in about another year or so, they could rightfully be called small-factor-PCs. We already know of a few small-factor PCs, such as the Surface tablets and other Windows tablets being made by the MS partners. Tablets from Apple and Google will, perhaps in the future, catch up to the Windows tablets in capabilities, but they're going to have to provide more capable OSes than iOS and Android for tablets. In fact, Linux could become a major player in the small-factor PC sector, if Google were to decide to scrap Android in tablets and go with full Linux capabilities; but that's after the hardware has evolved to full-PC capabilities. Tablets could be the back-door that full Linux has needed to become a major player in the home environment, or in the new small-factor PC environment in the home markets.

        However (going back to my original point), PCs still have the most users in the world when compared to tablets or smartphones. They may not be used as often as smartphones, but that's only because PCs are not as mobile. PCs are also not as mobile as tablets, but, I don't see that many tablets being used "on the go". Thus, we come back to the established user-base that still use PCs. When PCs have become appliance-like and last 5 years and much longer, it is a no-brainer that people won't be needing to make PC purchases as often. Simple tablets are cheap, and will cost $200 or slightly more. But those simple tablets, and even the iPads, are devices which have to be replaced every couple of years, which eventually, people will get wise to. The tablets market is still evolving, but when it finally matures, people will not be making purchases as often in order to keep up with the latest and greatest. The latest and greatest scenario for PCs went out some 5+ years ago, and the latest-and-greatest scenario for smartphones and tablets will also be going out the door in the not too distant future. PCs took more than 20 years before they matured to the point of becoming "appliance-like", and maturity for tablets is just a matter of a few years from now. Even smartphones are beginning to get redundant with the technology being touted as new. And we can witness that maturity in smartphones with what the service providers are doing to muster up new smartphone sales, where they are offering people to upgrade their smartphones before their 2 or 3 year contracts are up. When a 2 or 3 year old smartphone is still quite capable for what most people do with them, the sales start to become lackluster, and the makers and service providers are needing to offer incentives to keep people coming in for the new devices ahead of the service plans running out. It's all pointing towards a maturity of the mobile markets, and eventually, we could be talking about flat sales cycles for tablets and/or smartphones, just like what's happened with PCs.

        Otherwise, PCs are still a lot more functional and are still in more homes around the world than tablets or even smartphones. We have smartphones in my home and in my daughter's and son's home. We still use our PCs more than the mobile devices when we're not outside our homes.

        Fact, my daughter will be starting her own business (veterinary clinic) in the next couple of months, and she's shopping for computer equipment and software to go with the equipment. She will be going with the Windows environment for everything, since she doesn't want to have to upgrade her equipment every 2 or 3 or 4 years; she wants something that will last at least 5 years and that can be considered stable and comes with major support, hardware-wise and OS-wise, and applications-wise. No Android or iPad tablets will be used. She'll have 2 or 3 tablets, but they'll be Windows Pro tablets, since they can serve as PCs and tablets when mobility is required.
        • "...She'll have 2 or 3 tablets..."

          You said it all, tablets are a lot better than traditional PCs for many tasks. For a vet clinic I can see tablets combined with a cloud solution, as being like 100 times better - if they run windows, iOS or android it's irrelevant (except for the amount of solutions available and price).
          With the right software (that I agree is still missing for tablets - but that time will fix), a traditional PC has place only as a base station with cheap (reliable) hardware maybe connected to a big screen to issue news, advertising, ..., connect a cloud printer, ...
          And there we go, 1 PC and 2 or 3 tablets in an enterprise environment - cheaper (not with surface Pros) and way, way better than anything available 5 years ago. And that's how tablets will overtake traditional PCs.
          Thanks for the great example and good luck for the new business :)
          • Yeah, "she'll have 2 or 3 tablets", but Windows tablets,

            which are, essentially, PCs in smaller dimensions. iPads and Android tablets won't even be considered. When going for a tablet with the price of an iPad, why not then spend the equivalent amount (or less), in getting something that is a lot more useful, meaning, a full Windows tablet with a lot more capabilities than any tablet that is not Windows-based.

            It's like presenting the question: if one can get an automobile for the price of a motorcycle, which one would most logical people get? The iPad might be a nice motorcycle, but, it can't be used as an automobile, which is a lot more practical and used more often. The Windows PC/tablet, can be expected to be around a lot longer than any iPad. So, any iPad or Android tablet would be automatically and practically, disqualified as adequate for most business use.
          • Tablets that are like PCs are terrible

            Tablets should be tablets - that's how they shine.

            It's off-topic to discuss about the best tablet, anyway I've made a very short search on different app stores, android have a few apps for veterinarians (one very interesting for animal records, appointments, animal owner alerts, money management, ...), couldn't find anything interesting for other mobile platforms.... now you say, surface pro runs full windows, and I'll say get a $500 PC instead with a proper sized screen.

            When do you think windows mobile platforms will have the right app for your needs?
          • Tablets that are ALSO PCs, are the best options for any business,

            and even for consumers. Two in one for the price of one. What could be better?

            When it comes to those "few apps" for veterinary practices, that a complete joke, since when it comes to any practice, they seek complete solutions, and not a mishmash of apps that don't even begin to do the jobs needed. My daughter already has a complete solution in mind, and that solution is quite well-known in the veterinary field, and, though iPads and other tablets could be used as satellite devices, they'd still be not any better than comparable Windows-based PCs/tablets that cost around the same and even lower, and that could be used for much more than what the average tablet was designed to do.
  • You're graph says something else.

    It indicates that Asus, Acer and 'other' have lost market. I would guess that 'other' is mainly Apple. As for Asus and Acer, maybe people are just not considering a $400 plastic crap PC when they could have something much more capable for $650. Apple, on the other hand, I would think their sales would remain almost constant. Let's face it, if you bought a MacBook you'd buy another MacBook, and not even consider anything else. For the most part.

    Another thing to consider is that these aren't the Pentium days anymore. In 2001, the new hardware was barely able to run XP. Two years later, the hardware was much more powerful, so there was an incentive to upgrade. My five year old Core 2 Duo Dell is perfectly fine, however. There is no reason for me to spend money on a new laptop; this one does everything I need it to do, and it does it well.

    In other words, a 2 year old PC isn't a throwaway anymore. People hold on to what they have longer. And a tablet (any of them) is a viable alternative for school and, sometimes, even work.

    As Asus and Acer are finding out, you can't just make cheap crap and sell a bunch of them today.
    • Actually Mac sales are down more than average PC sales

      by comparison.
  • Down tick of PC sales: why there back to school new auto purchases

    Back to School PC sales makes much sense as a back to school new auto sales. PC are the new auto: you do not need to replace both every two years and there plenty of choices in the used market. For school work one can easy get by on a five year old cor 2 duo with windows 7 and office 2003. There is no need to by brand new.
    • ps

      can we pale have the ability to edit our post?
      • just like the shops..

        after the article is written, zdnet has done 10 more, and forgotten about it, and only us commentators are left.... :( :(
  • list incomplete!!!

    All this says is the people are buying less 'complete PCs from a bigname shop'...

    Not listed are samsung, toshiba, compaq, packard bell, sony and many others..

    just google 'cheap pc' and find all the smaller shops doing 'self-made' PCs to order, at less than half the price of the big makes! you can also specify *specific* parts if you want that, that shops like PC world and curyys just cannopt do... :)