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PC Picture Keeps Getting Worse, According to IDC Data

Microsoft partners who haven't yet started retooling their businesses for a future with fewer new PC deployments are getting more warnings from industry analysts that it may be time.

Witness this week's recalibration by IDC of its PC sales estimate for all of 2013. The Framingham, Mass.-based market research firm downgraded its previous estimate of a 9.7 percent decline in worldwide PC shipments to a forecast of a 10.1 percent drop, now that more data is in. 

While the change amounts to little more than a rounding error, it does take the estimate into solid double-digit-drop territory. For the record, IDC is slightly, but only slightly, more downbeat about 2013 than fellow researchers at Gartner, who recently forecast an 8 percent drop in the worldwide PC market.

There's a long-term pessimism coming out of IDC, as well. The firm is calling for a further 3.8 percent drop in 2014, followed by "slightly positive" growth that keeps shipments in the neighborhood of 300 million units per year for the foreseeable future. According to IDC, by the time the slide is over, the PC market will be just ahead of 2008 levels.

"Perhaps the chief concern for future PC demand is a lack of reasons to replace an older system," said IDC analyst Jay Chou in a statement. "While IDC research finds that the PC still remains the primary computing device -- for example, PCs are used more hours per day than tablets or phones -- PC usage is nonetheless declining each year as more devices become available. And despite industry efforts, PC usage has not moved significantly beyond consumption and productivity tasks to differentiate PCs from other devices. As a result, PC lifespans continue to increase, thereby limiting market growth."

IDC notes that the commercial market is less bad than the consumer market, and sees hope for a short-term shot in the arm when Windows XP support expires next April and a long-term shot in the arm from two-in-one devices. The firm's analysts have modest expectations for both boosts, though.

Taking up much of the slack is the tablet market. In another forecast released this week, IDC predicted that global tablet shipments would be 221 million this year, slightly less than the firm earlier expected but good for a 53 percent shipment increase over 2012. For now, IDC is predicting Windows tablets could make up 10 percent of that market by 2017, when the firm's analysts suspect tablet shipments will peak.

Posted by Scott Bekker on December 05, 2013 at 11:38 AM


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