There are some interesting results being reported so far this year in the world of “screens.” While smartphones and tablets have seen lackluster growth — even a plateauing or a decline of sales — PCs have charted their strongest growth in years.
As veteran technology reporter Dan Gallagher notes in a story published recently in The Wall Street Journal, “PCs have turned out to be a surprising bright spot in tech’s universe of late.”
In fact, Microsoft and Intel Corporation have been the brightest stars among the large-cap tech firms so far this year. Intel’s PC chip division’s sales are up ~16% year-over-year and now exceed $10 billion.
The division of Microsoft that includes licensing from its Windows® operating system plus sales of computer devices reports revenues up ~15% as well, nearing $11 billion.
The robust performance of PCs is a turnaround from the past five years or so. PC sales actually declined after 2011, which was the year when PC unit sales had achieved their highest-ever figure (~367 million). Even now, PC unit sales are down by roughly 30% from that peak figure.
But after experiencing notable growth at the expense of PCs, tablet devices such as Apple’s iPad and various Android products have proven to be unreservedly solid replacements for PCs only at the bottom end of the scale — for people who use them mainly for tasks like media consumption and managing e-mail.
For other users — including most of the corporate world that runs on Windows® — tablets and smartphones can’t replace a PC for numerous tasks.
But what’s also contributing to the return of robust PC sales are so-called “ultra-mobile” devices — thin, lightweight laptops that provide the convenience of tablets with all of the functionality of a PC. Those top-of-the-line models are growing at double-digit rates and are expected to continue to outstrip rates of growth in other screen segments including smartphones, tablets, and conventional-design PCs.
On top of this, the continuing adoption of Windows 10 by companies who will soon be facing the end of extended support by Microsoft for the Windows 7 platform (happening in early 2020) promises to contribute to heightened PC sales in 2019 and 2020 as well.
All of this good news is being reflected in the share prices of Intel and Microsoft stock; those shares have gone up following their most recent earnings reports, whereas all of the other biggies in the information tech sector — including Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, IBM, Netflix and Texas Instruments — are down.
It’s interesting how these things ebb and flow …