PC market may suffer a double-digit decline this quarter, warns IDC

PC market may suffer a double-digit decline this quarter, warns IDC

Summary: Slow sales in China have prompted IDC to reduce its first-quarter sales forecast by almost 2 percentage points. However, in the longer term, the PC market should be sustained by businesses upgrading from Windows XP.

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TOPICS: PCs, Hardware, Windows
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Today's PC industry relies on China not only to manufacture PCs but also to buy them: It currently accounts for about one fifth of the world market. China's falling PC purchases have therefore prompted research company IDC to knock two percentage points off its forecast for this quarter, and a double-digit decline is not out of the question.

IDC's Loren Loverde said in a statement: "Based on our latest quarterly figures, global PC shipments were expected to decline by 7.7 percent in the first quarter, as vendors and the supply chain work through the Windows 8 transition. However, our February monthly data suggest that we could see a drop touching double digits in the first quarter and a mid-single-digit decline in the second quarter before we see any recovery in the second half of the year."

China's slower-than-expected growth was "partially due to the timing of Chinese New Year", said IDC. There were also government budget cuts and anti-corruption measures.

IDC said: "March should recover somewhat in China, but not enough to offset the weak February results." However, PC market sales in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), Latin America, and Asia-Pacific (excluding Japan) were close to forecast figures.

IDC is currently forecasting that sales for the whole of 2013 will be just 1.3 percent down on last year's, and that sales will be up by 1.9 percent in 2017. In other words, PC sales will essentially remain flat.

The PC industry is now a replacement market, and most users see little reason to replace their current machines. Microsoft's major programs no longer need more powerful PCs to run them, and almost any PC bought in the past seven years can run Windows 7, Windows 8, and Microsoft Office perfectly well.

With Windows 8, Microsoft made an effort to provide the incentive for users to buy new PCs with touchscreens, and it also tried to expand into new markets by including a free tablet interface and software along with the established desktop interface. Intel also has an attractive new processor, code-named Haswell, on the way.

However, Loverde said: "Even getting to positive growth in the second half of 2013 will take some attractive new PC designs and more competitive pricing relative to tablets and other products."

But one thing that does bode well for future PC sales is the large installed base of business systems running the 11-year-old Windows XP. With the ending of Window's XP support, companies will have to tackle the malware assault without the benefit of security patches. This will increase the cost and reduce the benefits of running XP.

It already costs more to run 32-bit Windows XP than 64-bit Windows 7, because of its relative lack of security and stability and its inferior real-world performance (more delays in standard operations such as web browsing, more reboots, etc) even on the same hardware. Given the additional time savings from installing new PCs that have more modern processors with much integrated graphics, and the potential savings from reduced power usage, the business case is easily made.

Of course, not all businesses behave rationally even when it's in their own interests, and some are so cash strapped they're thinking only of survival. Following a triple- or quadruple-dip recession, the rump of XP users may be bigger than expected, but there should be enough upgraders to sustain the PC market into 2017.

IDC-PC market prediction 2013Q1
(Image: IDC)

Topics: PCs, Hardware, Windows

Jack Schofield

About Jack Schofield

Jack Schofield spent the 1970s editing photography magazines before becoming editor of an early UK computer magazine, Practical Computing. In 1983, he started writing a weekly computer column for the Guardian, and joined the staff to launch the newspaper's weekly computer supplement in 1985. This section launched the Guardian’s first website and, in 2001, its first real blog. When the printed section was dropped after 25 years and a couple of reincarnations, he felt it was a time for a change....

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  • Nice try, Jack!

    > by including a free tablet interface and software along
    > with the established desktop interface

    That's the first time that I've heard it described that way! And while it's a commendable attempt to rewrite history in the wake of Windows 8's abject failure with consumers and businesses, it simply doesn't wash. No way does Microsoft position Metro as some add-on that you can use or ignore as you wish. Metro is the whole deal to them. The Desktop is legacy, living on borrowed time. It's quite clear that Microsoft's plan is to remove the Desktop completely at some point; it's only a question of when.


    > It already costs more to run 32-bit Windows XP than
    > 64-bit Windows 7, because of its relative lack of security
    > and stability and its inferior real-world performance
    > (more delays in standard operations such as web browsing,
    > more reboots, etc) even on the same hardware

    Says you.

    Proper SSD support is the only reason that I haven't wiped 7 and gone back to XP. That and the latter's impending end of life for support, of course. The rest is marketing piffle.
    BrownieBoy
    • Nice troll!

      > It's quite clear that Microsoft's plan is to remove the Desktop
      > completely at some point; it's only a question of when.

      http://www.zdnet.com/five-reasons-why-the-windows-desktop-isnt-going-away-7000013185/
      Jack Schofield
  • So true...

    "The PC industry is now a replacement market and most users see little reason to replace their current machines. Microsoft's major programs no longer need more powerful PCs to run them, and almost any PC bought in the past seven years can run Windows 7, Windows 8 and Microsoft Office perfectly well."

    This is true. I've got a five year old core-2 duo laptop and a five year old core-2 duo desktop that run Windows 7 just fine and do everything I need them to. Would I like a touchscreen Windows 8 laptop? Sure. Would I like one enough to drop $700.00 on one and get rid of my perfectly good Lenovo X61? Eh... not so much.

    Unless you're an avid gamer the simple truth is any machine built within the past 5 years or so is probably fast enough for anything you might want. So there's no hurry to replace it.
    dsf3g
    • RE:

      Why the hell would anyone want a laptop or desktop PC with a touchscreen?
      zealaudio
  • The Post-PC Era Is Here

    Though there are some (like the flaggers of this posting) who keep denying it...
    ldo17
    • RE:

      It's not the post-PC era, but now that there is a choice to where people aren't locked into having to buy a PC to do light processing tasks, the PC will decline in sales.

      For people who need high processing power, large amounts of memory, and cutting edge technology for graphics intense games, PC's will always be around. Please stop spreading this ridiculous hype.
      zealaudio
      • RE:

        Oh, I forgot to mention: Windows 8 is putting a big thorn in the side of the PC industry because as we all know, it's an abhorrent operating system.

        And one thing that we all know, is that CPU speed increases have been slowing down the last 10 years, which means people are keeping components longer. Please don't believe all the hype the media feeds you.
        zealaudio
      • Re: It's not the post-PC era,

        Tell that to HP and Dell.
        ldo17
  • IDC Can Go Down the Drain With Microsoft

    Wasn't IDC the one who predicted that the Windows Phone market share would overtake iOS by 2015?
    zealaudio
    • Re: predicted that the Windows Phone market share would overtake iOS by 201

      It could still happen.
      ldo17