The improvement in PC lifespans may have been a plus for consumers (and their pockets), but it also appears to be weighing on computer sales. New figures from market research firm IDC said shipments fell by a record 10.6% year-on-year in the fourth quarter of 2015.
Around 71.9m units were shipped in the period, even including the Christmas shopping sales. IDC said the drop was the worst since it began tracking PC shipments. A winner amid the disappointing figures was Apple, which managed to buck the trend. Its shipments rose nearly 3% to around 5.6m units worldwide, as Dell, HP Inc and Lenovo all dealt with year-on-year declines. That’s in spite of an aggressive push behind Microsoft’s new operating software Windows 10.
While the PC market has seemed stuttered, smartphones and tablets have prospered. Chinese tech giant Huawei recently revealed it had sold over 100m units (breaking the domestic record and making it the world’s third biggest mobile brand after Samsung and Apple). And for Q3 2015, IDC said smartphone shipments reached the second highest level for a single quarter worldwide, 355.2m.
It’d be both premature and a little ridiculous to herald the inevitable death of the PC though. While many now use their mobiles in place of PCs on the move, a quick look around most offices will show that computers are very much still king in the workplace. Good luck hammering out a sales presentation on your iPhone.
IDC’s vice president Loren Loverde also pointed out that ‘the economic environment weakened further with the recent drop in the Chinese stock market’. He predicts PC replacements to gather some steam in 2016 as ‘commercial adoption of Windows 10 is expected to accelerate’.
It's in the home where the humble PC could be most under threat. If you're just after entertainment and a spot of online shopping then tablets, smart TVs and even phones may suffice, as screens continue to grow. But many had predicted the death of traditional TV and film as the popularity of streaming surged but the reality so far hasn't been so straightforward.
While the PC's place in the home may seem less concrete these days, remote working is on the rise (4.2m now regularly work from home in the UK, up from 3.4m in 2005). If that number keeps on growing, the PC's role at home may become prominent once more.