Both Gartner and IDC agree that the PC industry grew—if very slightly—in the quarter ending June 30, the first that’s happened in years.
I’ll have a deeper analysis of this situation for Premium members soon. But to be clear, this does not mean that the PC industry is “back,” or that we will now see growth in subsequent quarters, let alone this or future calendar years.
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“PC shipment growth in the second quarter of 2018 was driven by demand in the business market, which was offset by declining shipments in the consumer segment,” Gartner’s Mikako Kitagawa wrote, noting that consumer PC market is still shrinking at an alarming rate thanks to smartphones.
“The PC market continues to show pockets of resiliency as PC usage experience evolves and improves,” IDC’s Jay Chou added in that firm’s own report.
So what is this growth that is so exciting? Averaging the numbers from these two firms, as I’ve done for years, we see that PC makers sold approximately 62 million computers in the second quarter of 2018, up from the 60.8 million PCs they sold in the same quarter a year ago.
That means the PC market grew by just 1.9 percent in the quarter.
(All such measurements are made year over year, not quarter over quarter. In the previous sequential quarter, the PC market technically grew a tiny amount too, but I continue to call that “flat.”)
The makeup of the top five PC makers—HP, Lenovo, Dell, Apple, and Acer—hasn’t changed much in recent months. But HP’s performance is worth pointing out: Contrary to the rest of the industry, HP has now experienced PC sales growth in three consecutive quarters. They’re obviously on to something.
<p>PC's are a mature market and nothing grows without limit. Tablet sales have declined in recent years and so have smartphone sales. We are no more in the Post-PC era than we are in the Post-Tablet era or the post-Smartphone era. All three of these device types will continue to sell for years to come.</p>
<blockquote><a href="#292218"><em>In reply to BoItmanLives:</em></a></blockquote><p>Many people who own smartphones never owned a PC and never were going to, with or without smartphones. So the idea that every (or even most) smartphone purchases represent a displaced PC purchase is incorrect.</p><p><br></p><p>While sales obviously matter to companies selling PCs or smartphones, an individual who has replaced their PC with a smartphone and buys a new one every year or two, isn't displacing a PC for each smartphone purchased. Thus the faster update cycle for smartphones over PCs can mislead people to think the "displacement" is greater than it really is.</p>
<blockquote><a href="#292411"><em>In reply to curtisspendlove:</em></a></blockquote><p>There are potentially many interpretations of what "powerful" would mean in the context of PCs, smartphones and tablets. While there is some overlap, each device type excels in different areas. </p><p><br></p><p>PCs are obviously a poor choice for taking photos of your friends at the beach and sharing them on a social network. Similarly, smartphones are a poor choice for editing large documents, creating spreadsheets, or creating serious art. Tablets are in-between: less handy for social networks and a bit more practical at productivity work although generally not as useful for that as a PC.</p><p><br></p><p>You're right some people won't need "traditional" applications, but as I said, many of them were never going to be potential PC owners anyway.</p>
<blockquote><a href="#292549"><em>In reply to solomonrex:</em></a></blockquote><p>One should be careful about analogies, they can backfire on you. In the US the most popular vehicles are SUVs that are classified as trucks. So if Jobs' analogy is correct, PCs should be outselling smartphones and tablets.</p><p><br></p><p>But, it was a poor analogy anyway. </p>
<p>A 10 year graph needs to be made in order to understand the where the PC market is trending. The PC Industry will never be back. It's best days are already over, thanks to simpler and and operating systems that run mobile smartphones/computers like Android, iOS, and the web. I wouldn't be surprised if the PC sales go through a larger decline as well.</p><p><br></p><p>Again, this needs to be graphed.</p>
<blockquote><a href="#292717"><em>In reply to curtisspendlove:</em></a></blockquote><p>"What if you could walk into your home office, drop your phone on your wireless charging dock, sit down at your desk, wiggle the mouse and your phone pops up TurboTax on your 4K monitors"</p><p><br></p><p>Where's the advantage to this scenario? Unless the phone is very cheap, it's going be more expensive than what we typically use now even if it worked flawlessly.</p><p><br></p><p>"People are fine with plugging a tablet / fancy folding phone thingie into a projector for presentations. But plugging it into a KVM combo is some pipe dream?"</p><p><br></p><p>It's a completely different use case. A projector is shared device that is occasionally used in meetings. It's not as if every worker who uses a computer has their own projector and wall to project on. </p><p><br></p>
<blockquote><a href="#292949"><em>In reply to curtisspendlove:</em></a></blockquote><p>"most people use desktop / laptop machines as dumb terminals</p><p>or as a browser interface into proprietary systems"</p><p><br></p><p>What do you base that on? Apparently all the millions of people who bought the native version of Office, or Photoshop, or hundreds of other programs never use them since they can't be accessed when the PC is acting as a dumb terminal or through a browser. Not to mention all the legacy proprietary software systems companies were wise enough not to convert to web-based when there wasn't any good business case for doing so.</p>