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Wednesday, Apr 10, 2013 8:27pm
Gartner, IDC: 2013 may be worst in 20 years for PC shipments
Traditional desktop and notebook computer shipments have suffered the worst year-over-year drop in almost 20 years as consumers shift to mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, numbers from both IDC and Gartner revealed on Wednesday. The two companies' numbers disagree somewhat on exact amounts, but both believe PC (referring to both Windows and Mac desktop and notebook) shipments have fallen by between 11 and 14 percent in the first quarter of 2013 compared to the same period last year.

The US market was not much different, with shipments declining by 10 to 13 percent depending on which company is doing the reporting. On the whole, IDC's numbers were more negative than Gartner's but both noted that Apple was one of only three companies to soften the blow, Lenovo and Toshiba being the others. Hardest hit by the move to mobile devices in the US has been HP, which saw its domestic shipments drop around 23 percent year-over-year according to both analysts. Worldwide, Acer Group saw a 29-31 percent drop, while HP's shipments were down nearly 24 percent.

On the worldwide front, the five top-ranked companies (HP, Lenovo, Dell, Acer Group and ASUS in that order) all saw steep declines in worldwide shipments apart from Lenovo, which managed to equal shipment levels from the year-ago quarter. One unusual area of strong disagreement between the worldwide numbers from IDC and Gartner was over the performance of ASUS, with IDC saying the company's PC shipments were down 19.2 percent, while Gartner claimed only a 3.5 percent drop. The discrepancy is due to differing estimates of shipment numbers in Q1 2013, and one or the other company will be proven more accurate in its reporting when ASUS reveals its official figures for the quarter.

Lenovo was the only company to gain significant worldwide share during the first quarter, rising between 1.5 and two percentage points. The two companies again disagreed on how well Apple did in the US domestic market, with IDC claiming the iPhone maker saw a decline of 7.5 percent in Mac shipments, while Gartner said Apple had shipped 200,000 more Macs than IDC thought it did, and claimed this represented a rise from a year ago of 7.4 percent. Both companies agreed that Apple is the third-largest manufacturer in the US, with a marketshare of around 10 percent.

Looking a preliminary US vendor sales, Apple trailed behind Lenovo again, the latter of which claimed a 13 percent improvement in sales over Q1 a year ago, the only company to show double-digit improvement (and by IDC's estimates the only company to show growth at all). Toshiba saw a smaller drop in shipments than any of the other vendors who posted declines.

Gartner pinned the decline squarely on the move to mobile devices, saying that tablets and smartphones were stealing "content consumption" time away from desktops and notebooks, with the practical upshot being that consumers don't need to replace the "workhorse" desktop and notebook devices as often as they used to when they were the only Internet-connected devices most people owned. The decline, IDC said, was all down to the consumer market -- claiming the professional PC market was up slightly overall, owing to regular PC refresh cycles. It did note that Windows 8 had yet to find much acceptance in the marketplace, however.

Both studies noted that this is the fourth sequential quarter that has seen drops in PC shipments, a trend neither company expected would change. The results support Apple CEO Tim Cook's argument that the world is entering a "post-PC" era, where desktop and notebook computers will still be widespread but used more and more often for pro-level, niche and other higher-end tasks not easily accomplishable on other devices, while the bulk of "typical" and consumer tasks will increasingly be handled by tablets, smartphones and other devices.