PC market swallows bitter pill as sales of tablets take off
IT looks like the end of the computer age – or at least the end of an era.
Global sales of personal computers slumped between April and June as consumers turn in ever greater numbers to tablets and other mobile devices.
According to statistics from the research firm Gartner, sales fell 10.9pc during the second quarter of 2013 compared with the same period a year ago.
Just over 76 million laptops or desktops were shipped during the period, down from more than 85.3 million in 2012.
While sales were relatively stable in the US, with shipments sliding 1.4pc, the drop accelerated in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).
In EMEA, the market plummeted nearly 17pc to barely 21.3 million units.
The falling sales continue a trend that has been ongoing for the last five quarters.
That is the longest decline in the PC market since records began.
PC makers have been struggling since 2010 when the industry was hit by the double whammy of the recession and the launch of Apple's iPad, creating a new category of computer for consuming media and other data.
With the iPad and other tablet computers now serving the needs of most casual users, the market for PCs has shrunk dramatically.
"We are seeing the PC market reduction directly tied to the shrinking installed base of PCs, as inexpensive tablets displace the low-end machines used primarily for consumption in mature and developed markets," said Gartner principal analyst Mikako Kitagawa.
"In emerging markets, inexpensive tablets have become the first computing device for many people, who at best are deferring the purchase of a PC.
"This is also accounting for the collapse of the mini notebook market," he added.
Despite the launch of Microsoft's new operating system, Windows 8, last year, the industry has not been able to arrest what is now seen as a structural decline.
Windows 8 has been beset by problems, as users prefer to stick with previous operating systems such as Windows 7 or even the 12- year old XP. However, Ms Kitagawa discounts the Windows 8 struggles.
"While Windows 8 has been blamed by some as the reason for the PC market's decline, we believe this is unfounded as it does not explain the sustained decline in PC shipments, nor does it explain Apple's market performance," she said.
Lenovo, which is perhaps best known for the ThinkPad brand of business notebooks, remains the biggest computer maker in the world, with a 16.7pc global market share. Lenovo sales dipped only 0.6pc year on year.
HP is number two with a 16.3pc share, but its overall sales fell nearly 5pc. Importantly however, HP is the market leader in the US, Europe and Latin America. Lenovo dominates the Asian market.
Dell, which is in the process of transforming itself into a software and consulting business, remains in third place. Acer and Asus come fourth and fifth, but their sales plummeted more than a third and a fifth respectively.