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In the Zone

PC sales are flat, and that’s okay

Peter Krass's picture

by Peter Krass on 04/12/2018
Blog Category: Devices

Get ready to lower your expectations. The PC business had a boring first quarter, and apparently, that’s good news.

Market watchers IDC and Gartner both issued their preliminary reports today on Q1:18 PC sales worldwide. Depending on which researcher you trust, PC unit sales in this year’s first quarter were either completely flat (IDC) or down by a slight 1.4% (Gartner).

The difference has to do with how Gartner and IDC define the PC market. Both include desktop and notebook PCs. But IDC also includes workstations, and does not include either tablets or 2-in-1s (which it calls “detachable tablets). Gartner, meanwhile, does include 2-in-1s (which it calls “ultramobile premiums”), but not Chromebooks or iPads.

It’s a bit confusing. The result is that IDC says 60.4 million PC units were shipped worldwide in this year’s first quarter. But Gartner says the total was 61.7 million.

The main takeaway? Given a market of such low expectations, it could’ve been worse. In fact, was predicted to be worse.

IDC had earlier forecast a 1.5% decline worldwide for the quarter. So a flat 0.0%? That’s better.

The U.S. market did either better or worse, again depending on whose definition you prefer. IDC says PC sales in the U.S. increased modestly, reaching 13.5 million units, mainly because all major vendors reported increased sales of notebooks. Gartner says no, U.S. unit sales fell by nearly 3%, dropping to 11.8 million units.

By vendor

The PC vendor ranking didn’t change in Q1, but the fortunes of some suppliers rose while those of others fell. Here’s their report card according to IDC:

> HP: Still the top PC supplier worldwide by units sold, it reported an 8th consecutive quarter of sales growth. For Q1:18, HP shipped 13.7 million PC units, up 4.3% over the year-earlier period.

> Lenovo: Number 2 worldwide, its global PC sales in Q1 were flat at 12.3 million units.

> Dell: Number 3 worldwide, the company enjoyed a strong 6.4% increase in PC shipments, totaling 10.2 million units in Q1.

> Acer: Number 4 worldwide, the company suffered a sharp drop of 7.7% in the first quarter, shipping just 4.1 million units.

Wake up!

So where’s the excitement? Two big areas: notebooks and gaming. As mentioned above, all the top vendors are enjoying increased notebook sales in the U.S. And “a fast-growing gaming community is adding to the confidence,” says IDC researcher Neha Mahajan.

The other growth area is higher prices. Vendors are getting away with it, Gartner says, due to several factors: “deceleration” in the smartphone business, a lack of demand for PC replacements, and cautiousness on the part of component manufacturers.

Also, PC makers are still passing along the higher cost of DRAM components to consumers. The idea: with fewer units shipping, get a higher price — and profit — from every sale. Nice work if you can get it!

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