Jul 12, 2013 (05:07 AM EDT)
Dell, Lenovo See Silver Lining In Stormy PC Market

Read the Original Article at InformationWeek

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PC shipments declined by around 11% in the second quarter, according to separate reports issued this week by research firms Gartner and IDC. The market's year-over-year performance dropped for the fifth consecutive quarter, extending the longest such streak in history.

Even so, signs are pointing up for certain vendors, such as Lenovo and, to a lesser extent, Dell. For Acer, Asus and even Apple, however, the newest reports contain few silver linings.

There are also signs that the PC market's freefall is slowing, especially in the United States. That said, it is unclear if this progress is a temporary reprieve, or an indication that the computing hierarchy -- which has in recent years been thrown into disarray by tablets and smartphones -- might be stabilizing.

Lenovo was the top vendor worldwide. Even though its shipments declined around 1%, the company suffered fewer setbacks than competitors and accounted for 16.7% of PC shipments overall. HP was marginally behind, at just over 16%. HP actually gained market share relative to the same point last year, when it led the pack. It suffered a larger decline in shipments than Lenovo, however, which helped the Chinese PC market leapfrog HP for the top spot.

Dell was third, with around 12% of global shipments.

[ For another perspective on the health of the PC market, see 4 Reasons PC Market Won't Rebound. ]

Even though Lenovo, HP and Dell all suffered year-over-year shipment declines, each company nonetheless gained global market share due to the ongoing collapse of Acer's and Asus' PC businesses, which were down in excess of 30% and 20%, respectively. Other PC vendors, including Toshiba and Apple, accounted for about two-fifths of worldwide shipments and performed roughly in line with the marketwide average.

Though the declines were not as sharp as analysts had expected, many regions – such as Europe, the Middle East, Africa and most of Asia – did underperform. In the United States, however, shipments almost matched those from a year ago -- a stark contrast to the double-digit declines that have defined recent quarters. The unexpectedly strong performance modestly boosted the overall market by compensating for losses elsewhere.

HP led the stateside charge, though its shipments declined by roughly 5%. That's worse than the average decline nationwide, which IDC pegged at 0.5% and Gartner estimated at 1.4%. Dell fared better, increasing its domestic shipments by around 6% and snaring almost a quarter of the market, only a few percentage points behind HP.

Apple helped accelerate the PC slide with its iPad, but its laptops and desktops have weathered the ensuing storm better than most of their Windows-based competitors. Even so, Apple didn't benefit from the U.S.'s Q2 upswing. IDC said Apple's shipments, which do not include tablets, were down 0.5%, slightly ahead of the nationwide average. Gartner calculated a more severe 4.3% decline, around triple the firm's estimated rate for the domestic market overall.

Global leader Lenovo was only fifth in the U.S., but its 19.6% jump in shipments led the field by a large margin.

Though the PC market is showing a few signs of life, it is unlikely that traditional desktop computers, and perhaps even laptops, will ever reclaim their previous roles.

IDC analyst Loren Loverde told Bloomberg that the days in which most people own a personal computer might be numbered. The future is likely "one tablet per person and one PC per family," he said, echoing what Gartner's Carolina Milanesi told InformationWeek in April. She noted at the time that because mobile devices are cheaper than PCs and, for many common uses, equally or more compelling, many users have delayed or cancelled plans to upgrade aging PCs.

Indeed, in a statement, Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa said that in emerging markets, "inexpensive tablets have become the first computing device for many people, who at best are deferring the purchase of a PC."

IDC suggested that Windows XP's imminent retirement played a role for those people and organizations that are buying PCs. In a statement, IDC VP Bob O'Donnell said that as businesses that were still using XP migrated to Windows 7, the resulting increase in commercial sales might have propped up the U.S. market.

Significantly, he did not mention Windows 8 as part of the enterprise upgrade process. Microsoft's company restructuring, announced Thursday, will be partially judged by the number of enterprises that adopt Windows 8.1 for business tablets, and, to a lesser extent, the number that embrace the new OS and touchscreens on desktops and laptops.