IDC: Global PC shipments plunge in worst drop in a generation

IDC: Global PC shipments plunge in worst drop in a generation

Summary: It's not looking good for the traditional computer. Plus, figures from Gartner.


Global PC shipments* plunged 14 percent in the first three months of 2013, according to newly released figures from market research firm IDC.

It's the steepest decline since 1994, when IDC began keeping records for the device. (For rival Gartner's figures, read on.)

Worldwide PC shipments totaled 76.3 million units in the first quarter of 2013, down 13.9 percent compared to the same quarter a year ago, according to IDC. That's far worse than IDC's prediction of a 7.7 percent decline, and the fourth consecutive quarter of year-over-year shipment declines.

In IDC's own words:

Despite some mild improvement in the economic environment and some new PC models offering Windows 8, PC shipments were down significantly across all regions compared to a year ago. Fading Mini Notebook shipments have taken a big chunk out of the low-end market while tablets and smartphones continue to divert consumer spending. PC industry efforts to offer touch capabilities and ultraslim systems have been hampered by traditional barriers of price and component supply, as well as a weak reception for Windows 8. The PC industry is struggling to identify innovations that differentiate PCs from other products and inspire consumers to buy, and instead is meeting significant resistance to changes perceived as cumbersome or costly.

In short: Windows 8 was a bust, if success is defined as boosting PC shipments. But it's clear that the market currents are larger and more powerful than Microsoft (or any other single vendor) can manage -- nevermind the fact that its radically different operating system has seen slow adoption.

With Lenovo as an exception, PC makers such as Hewlett-Packard and Dell have been restructuring to accommodate the market shifts. The hardest hit: whitebox system builders.

Here's a look at how it's playing out across the globe:

The United States market contracted 12.7 percent year over year and 18.3 percent quarter over quarter. Total volume fell to 14.2 million. Quarterly shipments reached their lowest level since the first quarter of 2006.

The Europe, Middle East and Africa market posted a steeper double-digit decline than anticipated in 1Q13. In an already soft market with budget pressures all around, demand is shifting to tablets. Windows 8 and touch-enabled device adoption remains slow.

The Japan market saw some economic improvement thanks to commercial replacement demand ahead of the scheduled end of support for Windows XP next year. Consumer shipments were "very weak," IDC says.

The Asia-Pacific market -- which excludes Japan -- saw a sharp decline in shipments, dropping a record 12.7 percent year over year. It's the first time the region has ever seen a double-digit drop. "Lukewarm reception" to Windows 8 continues. As expected, China is in the driver's seat for this market, and its foot is off the gas.


At the corporate level, Hewlett-Packard remains king -- despite a 23 percent drop in global shipments, year over year, across all regions. (Yes, that's how tough this business has become.)

Lenovo came in second place and "nearly closed the gap with HP" thanks to an impressive, aggressive strategy. It's the only company that grew shipments, posting double-digit growth numbers in the U.S. as the rest of the market moved in the opposite direction. Interestingly, Lenovo saw declines in the Asia-Pacific region.

Rounding out the Top 5 were Dell (down 10 percent worldwide and 14 percent in the U.S., an improvement), Acer (hurting from its bet on netbooks) and Asus ("substantial decline" in EMEA and Asia-Pacific).

And if you're wondering, yes, even Apple saw PC shipment declines "as its own PCs also face competition from iPads," IDC says.

And what about IDC's rival, Gartner? That market research firm also released its figures today, measuring an 11.2 percent decline quarter over quarter and quarterly shipments of 79.2 million units, a bit higher than IDC's numbers -- and therefore the lowest levels since the second quarter of 2009, per its estimates.


According to Gartner's 1Q13 figures, HP and Lenovo are "in a virtual tie" for first place in PC shipments worldwide; Dell filled out the Top 3.

In the U.S., it remains an HP-Dell-Apple world. Only Apple and Lenovo (No. 5 in the U.S.) were among those in the U.S. top five to see PC shipment growth during the quarter. 

More key points of interest from the firm's report:

  • The EMEA region saw the steepest decline worldwide: a 16 percent decline, to just 23.3 million units in 1Q13. Why? "Ongoing economic uncertainties" in Southern Europe, plus increasing mobile device adoption.
  • The Asia-Pacific market wasn't much better: a 10.3 percent decline, to just 27.6 million units during the quarter. Why? You guessed it: "a fragile economic environment."
  • Unlike the consumer PC market, the professional PC market has seen growth, driven by continuing PC refreshes. The professional market makes up about half of all shipments.
  • HP "recorded its worst shipment decline since the acquisition of Compaq in 2003," under attack in both consumer and professional segments. Ouch.
  • Despite Lenovo's extraordinary growth figures in the U.S., it was Lenovo's slowest growth worldwide since 1Q09.
  • The economic recovery is having little impact on PC market conditions.
  • U.S. PC shipments totaled 14.2 million units in 1Q13, a 9.6 percent decline from the same quarter a year ago.

*One important note: IDC defines PCs as "Desktops, Portables, Mini Notebooks and Workstations." This includes netbooks but excludes tablets with detachable keyboards. Gartner defines PCs as "desk-based PCs and mobile PCs, including mini-notebooks but not media tablets such as the iPad."

Topics: Tech Industry, Hardware, PCs

Andrew Nusca

About Andrew Nusca

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. During his tenure, he was the editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation.

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  • Windows 8 Killed the PC Star

    "In short: Windows 8 was a bust, if success is defined as boosting PC shipments"

    Yup. Yes. Agreed. Uh-huh. You got it. The newest hardware is pretty great; the newest, not so much.

    Hey laptop/desktop OEMs: Sell your machines with Windows 7 instead. Just a thought.
    • Watch out...

      The Windows 8 astroturf squad will be along in moments to ridicule you. They're even worse than the Linux fanbois at this point because at least the PenquinHeads know that their product has some issues to work out.
      Evil Sandmich
      • So what does that make you?

        Just asking.
        • Truth huts Microsoft shills esp Ed Bott

          now that it's a bigger flop than Vista lol. Meanwhile iPad and Android tablets are selling like hot cakes
        • fix

    • The winds of change are upon us

      Some will fare better than others. Those who cling to the PC only are likely to suffer for it.
      • There is an additional problem

        Research is showing some signs that 3rd world and emerging economies are skipping desktop computers and going straight to mobile tech, such as smartphones and tablets. I suspect that would be making it harder for desktop computer makers to find new markets.
      • $500 devices are far better than $1500. What did they hope for?

        "In short: X was a bust, if success is defined as boosting PC shipments"

        Where X is any or all of: Ultrabooks, SSD, cheap RAM, Atom, Ivy Bridge, Metro, Oneric Ocelot, Precise Pangolin, ...

        In short, nothing could have saved it. Who in their right mind would buy 4-6 pounds of plastic and steel at $1000 if the work could be done by 1 pound of plastic and/or aluminum at $500 or less?

        Add here that those $500 computers have better screen resolution and better brightness, contrast and view angles than 99% of PCs, and the picture is very clear. Go back to your design boards and don't come back until you get a more attractive, reliable, cheaper hardware similar if not better than Lenovo Yoga. Nobody needs $1500+ laptops with a lid covered uselessly with gorilla glass. Few people need desktop PCs, and those are more likely to spend money on an iMac than an ugly AIO PC.
        • Yeah, but

          The problem is that not only did it not help the sales ... it made them fall sharper than estimated!
      • really?

        In what way do you suppose I'm going to suffer. I said it before and I'll say it again, tablets are great little toys, but there's not one out there can can replace my desktop. They are far too limited for what I do and don't have nearly the amount of muscle.
    • Win 8 unusefull for serious PC work.

      Totally agree to the above: OEMs should offer their machines with Win 7 at least as an option.
      • Actually

        Even Windows 7 did not prevent decrease of sales. It is shortsighted to blame Windows 8, as the decrease in sales was happening well before 8 hit the market.

        The reasons for the decrease aren't particularly hard to figure out:

        -Worldwide economical crisis. And we are definitely not out of that one either.
        -Increased competition from tablets (not sure if smartphones could really be any factor in this)
        - Decreased need to replace OEM machines

        If it was due to Windows 8 we would have seen no decrease in sales of OSX machines for instance, but also Apple is reporting decreased sales in comparable percentages.

        I believe the correct phrase here would be decreased sales despite Windows 8 not because of it.
        • Did you read the article?

          Here's a quote: "Only Apple and Lenovo (No. 5 in the U.S.) were among those in the U.S. top five to see PC shipment growth during the quarter. " So, apparently OS X machines are doing much better than most PC desktops.

          Desktop Windows used to be the platform with the most available applications. Now, it's iOS which has the most applications. Microsoft destroyed the Windows UI and at the same time, tons of people realized they could do everything they need with a tablet. Microsoft have made themselves irrelevant to the consumer market. The correct statement is that the Titanic known as Windows 8 Metro is helping drag the consumer desktop PC to a watery grave. One interface does not fit all. If I had owned Microsoft stock, I'd have dumped it 18 months ago.
          • I did read it, you obviously didn't

            Apple shipped 1.533 K computers in Q12012 as opposed to 1418K in Q12013 a decline of 7.5%

            Lenovo (a prime Windows OEM) indeed saw an increase of 13%. People trying to avoid Windows 8 are apparently going to an OEM that sells Windows 8 instead of to Apple that doesn't sell Windows 8.

            For your information, the number of available applications on Windows (including Windows 8) is staggering as compared to the number of applications available on IOS. Not to mention that the majority of apps on IOS are fart apps, mobile website replacements and the like.
          • Yeah just keep preaching the MS mantra!

            They need you more than ever, ROFLOL!!!
          • Where did you find those numbers?

            They certainly weren't in the article, NOR were they in any of the charts. Or did you go elsewhere looking for those numbers?
          • What's really interesting is that Apple saw Market Growth...

            Even though their year-over-year sales numbers fell.

            3. Apple: 1,418 1Q13; Market Share - 10.0%; 1,533 1Q12; Market Share - 9.4%; Unit Growth: -7.5%. This according to the full IDC article which is referenced by this blog.
          • Yes they saw a tiny

            Market share growth, (0.6) but a steep decline in sales. Now if Windows 8 is the reason that pc sales are down, you would naturally suspect their sales to go up and their market share to go into a steep increase, as people search for alternatives. Yet they also sell 7.5% less and not even saw a 1% market share growth.

            My money is on other reasons, as stated above.
          • 7.5% is not a "steep decline" when your numbers aren't all that big...

            to begin with. On the other hand, 20%-30% decline when you're among the biggest PC OEMs on the market, like HP, is a huge number. Millions of sales vs only 120,000 sales is a MASSIVE difference.
          • Reason

            Statistically, the Apple fan base buys Apple products irrationally, so one would expect their numbers to decline less. Those using Windows based PC's tend to buy rationally. There is NO compelling reason to buy Windows 8 and, for the most part, little to buy a new PC. Some, though not most, PC users may indeed be switching to Apple products.