IT Trends | Research

Desktop PCs To See Further Decline in 2012

Shipments of traditional computers will fare worse in 2012 than previously expected, according to a newly revised forecast issued by market research firm IDC. A "challenging" back to school season in the United States is just one of the factors that will drive an overall decline in both desktop and portable systems domestically for the second year running.

According to the report, the IDC Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker, in mature markets, including the United States, Western Europe, Japan, and Canada, shipments of desktop systems will fall off 0.5 percent in 2012 to 55.8 million units (following an 8.4 percent decline in 2011), while shipments of portable systems will drop off 1.5 percent to 97.6 million units (following a decline of 8.8 percent in 2011).That works out to an overall a decline of 1.2 percent in mature markets, representing 153.3 million total units in 2012 compared with 155.1 million in 2011.

In the United States specifically, shipments of traditional computer systems are expected to decline 3.7 percent. Factors for the domestic decline include what appears to be a weaker-than-expected back-to-school season; consumers holding off purchases in anticipation of Windows 8 (coming in the fourth quarter); and competition with smart phones and media tablets, according to IDC.

"The U.S. market will remain depressed until Windows 8 products hit the shelves in the fourth quarter of 2012,” said David Daoud, research director, Personal Computing at IDC, in a prepared statement. "The industry is responding by reducing shipments of PCs and clearing Windows 7-based inventories to pave the way for a new generation of systems. But, as we move into the tail end of the third quarter, PC activity will continue to slow as demand drops. The third-quarter back to school season is also proving to be a challenging period, despite prices dropping to their lowest levels. We expect the year will end with shipments in the U.S. falling by 3.7 percent, marking the second consecutive year of contraction."

According to the report, the picture for traditional computer systems is less bleak in emerging markets. These markets--which include Asia (except for Japan), Latin America, Central Europe, Eastern Europe, and Africa--are expected to see a 1.5 percent decline in desktop PC shipments (to 97.2 million units) but a 6 percent increase in shipments of portable systems (to 116.7 million units), for a combined increase of 2.5 percent (to 213 million units) this year.

In all markets, in 2012, worldwide desktop shipments will decline 1.2 percent to 153 million units, while portable PCs will increase 2.4 percent to 214.2 million units, for an overall increase of 0.9 percent to 367.2 million units.

Longer-term, IDC reported it expects to see significant acceleration of traditional PCs beginning in 2013, with stronger performance through 2016. Despite growth lingering below 2 percent in 2011 and 2012, the five-year compound annual growth rate for all traditional PCs from 2011 to 2016 is expected to be 5.83 percent, with total unit shipments growing to 391.1 million in 2013, 418.6 million in 2014, 450.1 million in 2015, and 483.1 million in 2016.

Chart: Total Worldwide Desktop PC v. Portable PC Shipments, 2011–2016 Emerging vs. Mature Markets (Shipments in Millions) Source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker, August 2012

"IDC remains optimistic that PC penetration opportunities in emerging markets will form the bulwark of the market and help sustain double-digit Portable PC growth in the long run. However, a host of all-too-familiar variables will lead to a subdued second half of the year with only consumer notebooks remaining in growth mode for all of 2012," said Jay Chou, senior research analyst with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker. "Factors such as Windows 8 coupled with Ultrabooks could present a positive turn of events next year, but it also faces some initial hurdles; chief of which is that buyers must acclimate themselves to an operating system that is a dramatic departure from existing PC paradigms. The PC ecosystem faces some work to properly educate the market."

Additional details about the report can be found in the IDC Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker.

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at .