PC shipments fall off a cliff in 2013, but will that be the death knell?

Rumours of the PC’s death are not greatly exaggerated, according to the latest predictions from IDC – but after a huge drop this year things will stabilise.

In figures published earlier this week, worldwide PC shipments are expected to fall by 10.1% as 2013 ends – a worse figure than the original forecast of 9.7% fall-off.

Worldwide total PC sales in 2012 were at 349.4m, with the figure this year falling to 314.2m. For desktop PCs, that number dropped from 148.3m to 135.6m.

Interestingly, the numbers of desktop PC shipments in mature markets, whilst lower than in emerging markets, aren’t experiencing the same level of drop-off. Desktop PC shipments in mature markets dropped from 53.5m to 50.3m this year, with emerging markets seeing a bigger fall, from 94.8m to 85.3m.

Yet according to the figures, this will be the nadir for PC shipments, stabilising to a solid 300m units a year from then on. By 2017, global PC shipments are predicted to be at 305.1m, with 121m comprising desktop PCs and 60% of units coming from emerging markets.

IDC calls these figures “slightly positive”, with senior research analyst Jay Chou adding that the PC is still the primary computing device for the majority of users.

“Despite industry efforts, PC usage has not moved significantly beyond consumption and productivity tasks to differentiate PCs from other devices,” Chou said.

“As a result, PC lifespans continue to increase, thereby limiting market growth.”

Given that figures from 2012-13 show PC sales practically falling off a cliff, Enterprise AppsTech is inclined to agree with IDC’s assessment that the long term future is ‘slightly positive’.

But PC shipments’ remaining relatively stable isn’t the issue – it’s the cataclysmic growth of tablet sales that will make legacy hardware vendors wake up in a cold sweat.

Nowhere is this more beautifully exemplified than in a tweet from Tech.pinions founder Ben Bajarin, who noted, “I think I am being conservative in the decline of PCs” after publishing a graph which revealed how tablet sales will be nearly double PC sales but 2016.

Michelle Quinn, writing for Silicon Beat, agreed with the sentiment, claiming she has “emotionally abandoned” her desktop, not even entering the room it is located.

Plenty of research has hit the press concerning the importance of tablets in the enterprise, not least from Forrester, who noted back in August that 18% of global tablet sales will be enterprise-oriented by 2017. Yet Intel CEO Brian Krzanich disagreed back in September, with the company claiming Moore’s Law – named after an Intel co-founder, of course – was “alive and well”.

IDC has also published eight predictions for the following year which look equally grim for global PC sales. Sales of smartphones and tablets are predicted to go up by 12% and 18% respectively, with Android holding a “volume edge” and Apple maintaining its “value edge”.

There’s plenty of meat on these bones regarding both a short-term and long-term future of the PC. But where do you think things will go from here?

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