If people had any doubts about the inexorable rise of tablet devices and smartphones, the sales results for the holiday season would surey erase them.
In fact, for the first time in five years, holiday PC sales have actually declined. Tech industry tracking firm IDC reports that personal computer manufacturers sold just shy of 90 million units worldwide during the last quarter of 2012. That’s down more than 6% compared to PCs sold in the final quarter of 2011.
What makes the news doubly troubling for the PC segment is that, unlike in 2009 when sales of all tech devices were hammered by a worldwide recession, this time around sales of other devices such as tablets and smartphones have grown substantially.
And considering 2012 as a whole, the news is even worse. The estimated 352 million PCs sold were ~3% lower than in 2011, which makes this the first annual decline in more than a decade – since 2001 in fact, when the 9/11 attacks roiled markets and impacted sales of all goods across the board.
And it isn’t trouble for just one manufacturer, either: The 2012 sales drop hit all of the big players including Dell, HP and Lenovo.
What about the prognosis for 2013?
It’s not much better. IDC is forecasting mediocre growth in the PC segment (less than 3%) — although at least that isn’t a decline.
But on the downside, it’s very possible that tablets will actually outsell PCs in 2013 – a possibility that would have seemed unthinkable just one or two years ago.
We’re hearing a number of explanations for the slump in PC sales. One of those is that Microsoft’s new Windows 8 operating system isn’t doing much to excite buyers – at least not so far. The surge in new PC hardware purchases, which commonly occurrs when newer versions of Windows have been introduced, hasn’t happen this time around.
More fundamental than the Windows 8 conversion rate are signs that PCs are losing their edge over other devices in the perception that they’re the most secure, reliable and efficient options.
This shift may be less about PCs themselves or their quality, and more about the aggressiveness by folks like Apple iPad and their incursions into the PC “space.”