Classroom scenes like this could fade from campuses as PC sales slacken. Image: DeSales University/Flickr
Kids don’t want computers. That’s one of several striking data points from worse-than-expected figures showing the global PC market is in decline. Since young people tend to drive technology trends, poor back-to-school sales of PCs say more than a drop in overall sales alone. We already know PCs aren’t cool (are college freshmen more likely to show off their new iPads or their new Dells?), but it’s starting to look like they’re also not needed.
Shipments of PCs in the U.S. shrank during the most recent quarter by more than 12 percent, according to IDC, and by nearly 14 percent, according to Gartner Inc. Meanwhile, analysts at IHS iSuppli predict global PC shipments will contract this year for the first time since 2001.
All three research firms agree that sluggish back-to-school sales — traditionally the time of a Christmas-like sales spike for the PC industry — are largely to blame.
“There was great hope through the first half that 2012 would prove to be a rebound year for the PC market,” analyst Craig Stice says in IHS’s report. “Now three quarters through the year, the usual boost from the back-to-school season appears to be a bust.”
While some PC buyers might be postponing purchases until Windows 8 comes out in just over two weeks, it’s hard to believe students would wait until after midterms to buy that new computer. Analysts say businesses might start buying more PCs again after Windows 8 comes out, but many corporate customers aren’t expected to be early adopters as they wait to see whether the new operating system comes with any glitches. As for students, even a wildly successful reception for Windows 8 won’t likely renew their interest in PCs. They’re more likely to want the version they can put in their pockets.
In a side note, struggling Silicon Valley giant HP was miffed at Gartner’s report that China’s Lenovo had usurped its title as the world’s largest PC maker. Gartner says Lenovo shipped nearly 13.77 million PCs this past quarter, while HP shipped 13.55 million. According to IDC, however, HP retains the top position with 13.95 million compared to Lenovo’s 13.82 million, which HP was quick to point out in a statement:
“While there are a variety of PC share reports in the market, some don’t measure the market in its entirety. The IDC analysis includes the very important workstation segment and therefore is more comprehensive. In that IDC report, HP occupies the No. 1 position in PCs.”
What HP doesn’t point out in its statement, however, is another IDC stat that the 73-year-old company might want to note, since its shareholders probably have. Lenovo’s PC shipments were up last quarter by more than 10 percent compared to the same time last year, or almost 1.3 million more computers. HP, on the other hand, shipped upward of 2.7 million fewer computers, according to IDC — a drop of more than 16 percent.
“Clearly Lenovo is gaining in the market, while HP is losing the market,” says Mika Kitagawa, Gartner’s lead PC analyst. Kitagawa says the quarter-to-quarter horse race among companies isn’t as important as the clear trend that shows Lenovo’s low-margin, high-volume business is trumping HP’s broader approach: “The question is whether HP can adjust its business model to fit into this difficult market.”