Personal computer shipments continue to crater, according to new data from Gartner.
The research firm suggested in a recent note that PC shipments declined 5.7 percent year-over-year in the third quarter of 2016. Nor was that a one-time dip: for the past eight quarters, shipments of laptops and desktops have imploded. It is, in the words of Gartner, the “longest duration of decline in the history of the PC industry.”
What’s the reason behind the fall? Mobile devices have a lot to do with it, according to Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner. “The extension of the lifetime of the PC caused by the excess of consumer devices, and weak PC consumer demand in emerging markets,” she wrote in a note. “The PC is not a high-priority device for the majority of consumers, so they do not feel the need to upgrade their PCs as often as they used to.”
In both developed and emerging markets, users are more inclined to pull out their smartphone or tablet when they need to do something computing-related. “Some may never decide to upgrade to a PC again,” Kitagawa added.
In Gartner’s estimation, Lenovo currently dominates the shrinking market, with a 20.9 percent share, followed by HP (20.4 percent), Dell (14.7 percent), Asus (7.8 percent), and Apple (7.2 percent). One interesting thing to note: although the firm doesn’t include Chromebooks, which run Google’s Chrome OS, in its estimate of PC shipments, Kitagawa wrote that “our early indicator shows that Chromebooks exceeded PC shipment growth.”
What does all this mean for tech pros? First, keep an eye on Chromebooks: there are signs that they could become much more of a force on the computing scene in coming quarters and years, especially as Google evolves the platform into something more robust.
Second, a weaker market for laptops and desktops may end up having a noticeable effect on the fortunes of those building apps for the form-factor, driving them to focus more on mobile instead. Although PC apps can potentially yield higher per-unit revenues than their mobile equivalents (see this posting from Daring Fireball for an interesting breakdown of how that can work out), the market for iOS and Android apps shows no signs of contracting anytime soon.