The PC market has been in decline for sometime, due to the long-term success of the suppliers and the high penetration rate among households, education and business alike. As a mature market it requires very different marketing and channel approaches than hot topic areas such as mobile devices, solid printers or IoT. The Figure shows the quarterly development of the installed base of PCs by type from 2003 to 2016. In total there were 957m PCs in use around the world at the end of March. Because this is a unit count the workstation, thin client and other (which include dedicated PC tablets, digital PC signage and other embedded devices) are only small contributors; workstation and other (but not thin client) are more important from a revenue point of view. You’ll want to catch up on what’s happening in the PC market – so read on…
For the first time in ages HP (Inc.) beat Lenovo to the top position in the market on the strength of its workstation and thin client business: as you can see from the Figure Lenovo still led both the laptop/PC tablet and desktop PC sub-markets. Dell was in a strong third position in the desktop market and in second in the laptop and PC tablet area. As the only supplier of non-Windows PCs Apple is doing surprisingly well – it’s in fourth position in the overall and both of the sub-markets we show here. It’s products are more expensive, it’s share of the unit shipment market is less (8.1% v 14.2% for revenue); nevertheless it was still in fourth there. Microsoft has done well with the Surface products launched in 2012. Acer (the second largest Chinese supplier after Lenovo) has lost shares consistently over the last few years: it is not helped by the current lack of demand in Asia. Samsung was in fifth position in the PC market, although it has been putting much more emphasis on its smart phones and tablets in recent years.
The maturity of the PC market can be assessed by looking at growth rates for revenues, shipments and installed base by quarter (see Figure). Notable changes were the short, sharp fall in sales due to the credit crunch in 2008-2009 followed by an equally rapid recovery in 2009-2010; there was also a smaller dip and growth period from 2012 to 2014 associated with the replacement of PCs running Windows XP, which Microsoft decided to drop from its on going support. The installed base has been moving far less dynamically, but has fallen from slight to zero growth in Q1 2016. I expect the number of PCs installed and in use to decline slowly from now on, unless the industry can find a new driver of the market; perhaps gaming and/or virtual reality are the best candidates. Despite its falling revenues the PC market remains very big – there is success to had by suppliers, although the largest ones have to juggle ‘must win’ deals with large organisations against an expectation of reasonable profits.
Let me know if you’d like more detail about our more research and coverage – it might help you plan more effectively for the coming quarters and years of this vital market.