PC Sales at Lowest Level Since 2007, Could Rebound in 2016

Recent industry reports suggest that 2015 was a challenging year for PCs. Industry analysis companies Gartner and IDC both issued reports showing a drop in the PC market of 8 and 10.4 percent, respectively. That 2.4 percent difference is based on how the two companies defined PCs. Gartner included detachable devices such as Microsoft’s Surface — which are becoming more popular — in its numbers, but IDC did not, now saying that including hybrid devices would have meant a 7.5 percent decline.

The Wall Street Journal identifies the three trends behind the slump to what IDC terms as “lowest level since 2007, the year Apple Inc. introduced the iPhone.” China’s economic slowdown, a strong U.S. dollar (that made PCs more expensive in Europe) and “the inexorable growth of smartphones and other mobile devices” were the “triple whammy” behind PC’s drop.

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IDC analyst Jay Chou notes, “2015 is the first time we’ve had the PC market, from a volume perspective, go below 300 million units since 2008.”

Of the top three PC manufacturers, Lenovo is still on top with 15.4 million units shipped, followed by HP (14.3 million) and Dell (10.2 million). In fourth place, Asustek Computer’s numbers rose by 0.8 percent, and Apple’s shipments rose 2.8 percent. The dip in sales has been toughest on the smaller companies that make up nearly one-third of the PC market.

But, says Wired, “the picture’s still not nearly so dire as it seems, particularly in the U.S.,” pointing to IDC’s report that PC shipments fell 2.6 percent in 2015 compared to 2014. (Gartner reports the number as 2.7 percent.) Apple and Lenovo’s increases are also impressive. “Especially for Lenovo, they’re doing very well in the 2-in-1 segment,” said Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa.

Moor Insights & Strategy founder Patrick Moorhead also finds reason for optimism. “I am not convinced at all that we are entering some sort of maturity or decline phase in PCs,” he said, noting that both in the workplace and at home, people are still largely using PCs. IDC executive VP Loren Loverde adds that PC replacements should pick up in 2016. Wired also points to the release of Oculus Rift as “a reminder that PCs can be aspirational products.”

“The global economy is off to a rough start this year, and truly mobile devices will continue to improve at tasks that were once strictly PC provenance,” admits Wired. It’s not a boom time for PCs, but it’s not as bad as some analysts would have us believe.