PC sales have been falling for years. Desktop computers and traditional notebooks reached a saturation point years ago, and furthermore, many have been replaced with smartphones and tablets. A majority of home desktop users just used their computers for email, internet and Facebook, and it’s easier and cheaper to do that with a smartphone.
However, I’ve long been skeptical of the argument that the traditional desktop and laptop are “dead,” because they are still needed for businesses and educational institutions, and gamers and other “power users” still also need and use PCs. Non-hybrid tablets are just not equipped to replace real computers for work, either.
So I am not entirely surprised to see the drop in PC sales finally bottoming out:
Shipments of PCs are definitely growing, for the first time in six years. Market research firms Gartner and IDC both agree that the PC market grew in the second quarter of 2018, with IDC claiming an increase of 2.7 percent and Gartner recording a more modest 1.4 percent of growth. IDC first revealed the PC market was starting to flatten and show potential growth last year, but both Gartner and IDC track PC shipments differently.
IDC’s data crucially includes Chromebooks and excludes Windows tablets including devices with a detachable keyboard like the Surface Pro. Gartner counts Windows-based tablets as PCs and excludes Chromebooks or any non-Windows-based tablets. Chromebooks appeared to be powering some PC growth last year, but now that Gartner is tracking overall growth it’s clear this is also from regular Windows PCs or Macs, and not just from Android tablets or Chromebooks. This is the first year-over-year PC shipment growth since the first quarter of 2012.
Windows 10 business PCs appear to be powering some of the growth. “PC shipment growth in the second quarter of 2018 was driven by demand in the business market, which was offset by declining shipments in the consumer segment,” says Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner. “In the business segment, PC momentum will weaken in two years when the replacement peak for Windows 10 passes.”
PCs will be around until something is found to replace them for business use. There are still many people who need computers for more than just Facebook and the Internet.