Market researchers at IDC claim that 2012’s PC sales decline will continue in the first half of 2013 only. As a result, PC sales will drop another 1.3 percent for the entire year, thanks to “continued pressure from tablets,” an “underwhelming” reception to Windows 8, and a slowdown in emerging markets.
That said, it’s not all bad news.
First, that 1.3 percent drop is perilously close to what I would call “flat,” meaning that PC sales in 2013—estimated to be about 346 million units, down slightly from 2012’s 350 million units—are still a sizable figure.
Second, PC sales are still expected to rise over time. IDC says it expects sales of 382 million units in 2017, for example. And that increase will actually start in 2013: The 2012 “contraction” is expected to continue into the first half of 2013 only, with PC sales rebounding in the second half of the year. So this year’s modest decline is simply a temporary continuation of the late 2012 sales doldrums.
And finally, events are conspiring to trigger better PC sales going forward, including “industry restructuring, better channel involvement, and potentially greater acceptance of.” And with Windows XP support ending in April 2014, businesses are expected to begin buying new PCs in volume in the year leading up to that date.
I was also interested to see IDC describe tablets as unacceptable alternatives to real PCs. While the firm admits that tablets are “winning consumer dollars,” it doesn’t see them as functional competitors to PCs because of their “limited local storage, file system, and lesser focus on traditional productivity.”
Indeed, many point to tablets as some kind of death knell for the PC industry despite any evidence to the contrary. One might have expected PC sales to nosedive in the face of such an awesome industry force, but a slight dive in early 2013 followed by a rebound in late 2013 and beyond doesn’t follow that model.
To put numbers from the same source against this theory, IDC expects hardware makers to ship 166 million tablets in calendar year 2013. That’s less than half the number of PCs that will be sold in the same time period, despite the fact that PCs are a mature and supposedly dying product. It’s also well under the 204 million portable PCs that IDC expects to be sold in the year.
Looking ahead, it will be years—if ever—before tablets catch up with overall PC sales. IDC expects hardware makers to sell 261 million units in 2016. That’s well below the PC sales totals of 2012/2013, let alone the 382 million units PC makers are expected to sell in 2017.
Granted, things change, and these are only estimates. But again, they’re reasonable to compare since they come from the same company.
As for Windows 8, IDC says that industry efforts to create varied, less expensive Ultrabook designs has so far been “disappointing.” A better supply of touchscreen components—which will improve the supply of touch-enabled Windows 8 models—should help, IDC notes, leading to “potentially greater acceptance of Windows 8.”