PC Market Beats Expectations, Slips 7.6% In Q3

According to IDC, the PC market contracted 7.6 percent in the third quarter. The group had expected a 9.5 percent decline, so the quarter outperformed expectations.

In the United States, the PC market was essentially flat during the quarter, with unit volume falling a mere 0.2 percent compared to the year prior. That fact, coupled with rising device volume for the three largest OEMs, provides a few rays of light in an otherwise crepuscular market.

ASUS and Acer lost more than one-third of their unit volume compared to the third quarter of 2012, a stunning decline. Helping the quarter best expectations were what IDC calls “business purchases” and blocks of PCs running Windows 8.1, Microsoft’s new operating system that was recently released to hardware manufacturers.

Total unit volume for the quarter totaled nearly 82 million. In the third quarter of 2012, that figure was just over 88 million. The PC market remains a massive space, and a huge revenue driver for its constituent players. Lenovo, HP, and Dell control just under half the market between them, with a combined market share of 46.1 percent.

So, what does all that mean? Frankly that, despite our endless discussion of the Post PC Era, the PC Era is still with us, and we in it. Still, IDC stated in its report that there is a “high probability that we will see another decline in worldwide shipments in 2014.” Yes. But we’re still selling nearly 1 million PCs each day, and if it weren’t for economic uncertainty in Europe (a market in which PCs had a tough third quarter), the unit decline for the quarter might have been closer to 0 percent rather than 5 percent.

The next quarter for the PC market will be bellwether. Microsoft has a far stronger operating system headed into the market than what it sold a year ago. And the lineup of PCs built to handle Windows 8.1 are materially improved over last year’s crop of non-touch machines. If Microsoft can’t turn those factors into a winning quarter, perhaps one of very, very minor unit decline, then I’m unsure what gust of wind could ever refill the PC market’s sails.

It’s an interesting question: At what point will the PC market have contracted sufficiently to allow it to post year-over-year quarterly growth again? Perhaps never. The old-fashioned back-to-school PC sales cycle this year essentially didn’t happen. That’s somewhat unsettling.

Top Image Credit: Dell Inc.