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article imagePC sales increase for first time in five years

By James Walker     Apr 13, 2017 in Technology
Sales of traditional desktop computers have grown for the first time in five years, according to new figures from a major analyst. It signals that demand for computers and laptops is beginning to rise, at the expense of the stagnant tablet market.
Analysts IDC report that worldwide shipments of desktop, laptop and workstation PCs grew by 0.6 percent during the first quarter of 2017 over the same period last year. In total, 60.3 million devices were shipped. It had previously been thought that sales would fall by 1.8 percent during the quarter.
Desktop PCs are still struggling in North America where the year-over-year decline in sales continued. The EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) region is stabilising though, supported by strong demand for mobile form-factors such as laptops and convertibles. In Japan, sales of desktop-based devices have all but recovered and a sustainable PC refreshment and replacement cycle is being observed.
IDC noted that consumers are still reluctant to upgrade their PCs to newer models. This has been widely attributed to Microsoft's free Windows 10 upgrade offer in 2015. This led many would-be computer customers to use older machines for longer than they had intended.
The issues in the general consumer space are offset by sub-segments of the market, such as gaming and professional workloads, that are seeing strong gains. Demand for components in these divisions is outstripping supply. IDC expects that the conflict between low general demand and high interest from select groups of users will lead to the PC industry stabilising in the near future.
"The commercial market is beginning a replacement cycle that should drive growth throughout the forecast," said IDC research manager Jay Chou. "Consumer demand will remain under pressure, although growth in segments like PC Gaming as well as rising saturation of tablets and smartphones will move the consumer market toward stabilization as well."
While IDC's figures suggest the PC industry is recovering, they are not supported by Gartner's, another major analyst. According to Gartner's numbers, shipments actually declined 2.4 percent in the first quarter of the year. It calculated total sales at 62.2 million units, higher than IDC's but representing a significant fall in sales.
Gartner agreed with IDC's view that business customers will be critical to the future of PCs. It also recognised that buyers in niche audiences are buoying the rest of the industry, opening up new opportunities for manufacturers who need to retire from consumer PCs.
"Vendors who do not have a strong presence in the business market will encounter major problems, and they will be forced to exit the PC market in the next five years," said Gartner principal analyst Mikako Kitagawa. "However, there will also be specialized niche players with purpose-built PCs, such as gaming PCs and ruggedized laptops."
While their sales figures are at odds with each other, both the major analysts agree the PC industry is heading to a stabilisation of sorts. Premium manufacturers continue to dominate the top-selling charts with HP now leading the market. It's the first time it's held the position since 2013. Lenovo, Dell, Apple and Acer comprise the other top five PC builders.
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