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PC industry bleeding to explode into full-blown hemorrhaging in 2013, says IDC

Brad Chacos | May 29, 2013
The long, slow bleeding out of the PC market is going to explode into full-on hemorrhaging in 2013.

The long, slow bleeding out of the PC market is going to explode into full-on hemorrhaging in 2013.

So sayeth the market analysts at IDC, which just released a revised PC shipment forecast that casts the computer business in a very unflattering light. The firm's original prediction expected shipments to be down just 1.3 percent this year, followed by slight percentage increases in the years ahead. Flat and steady, in other words.

No more.

After the steep losses in the disastrous first quarter, IDC now predicts PC shipments to drop a whopping 7.8 percent in 2013—nearly twice the rate of 2012's 4 percent decline, which already had the industry in a tizzy. Dell's on the block, Lenovo's pushing into smartphones despite its computing wins, and HP's first quarter PC revenues dropped a whopping 20 percent.

The pain isn't expected to stop there, either. IDC predicts shipments to drop another 1.4 percent in 2014 before settling down again. By 2017, the firm expects global PC shipments to total roughly 333 million units—more than the 321.9 million forecasted to move this year, but less than 2012's 349.2 million and 2011's 363 million. (To be fair, judging the market that far out is about as accurate as reading chicken entrails; witness how quickly this year's 1.3 percent decline blossomed to a full 7.8 percent plummet.)

The brains at IDC chalk the losses up to a couple of major factors: BYOD laptops, which brings down the business sales that serve as the PC industry's bread-and-butter, and—you guessed it—mobile devices.

"Many users are realizing that everyday computing, such as accessing the Web, connecting to social media, sending emails, as well as using a variety of apps, doesn't require a lot of computing power or local storage," VP Loren Loverde said in the firm's press release. "... These users have not necessarily given up on PCs as a platform for computing when a more robust environment is needed, but this takes a smaller share of computing time, and users are making do with older systems."

That jives exactly with what I've been saying for a while now: PCs aren't dead, but they are microwaves. Commodity appliances, used for specific purposes and replaced only when they break down completely.

A mass shift in consumer behavior can have devastating consequences for the PC industry, percentage wise. If your PC slows to a snail's crawl—which is unlikely, by the way—but your tablet or smartphone can still tackle 90 percent of your computing needs, you're more likely to postpone buying a new computer, especially in today's economy.

The PC industry's growth is based on people regularly refreshing their computers. If a horde of people decide to push that refresh back a year or two longer than usual, annual PC sales are going to drop precipitously as a result. Like, say, to the tune of a 7.8 percent decline.


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