The performance of the PC market in Q1 has split opinion among the analyst community, with Gartner claiming the global market for PCs shrunk, but IDC pointing to a small increase in shipments over the same period. But the duo agree that the business segment will be crucial for vendors, with Gartner going as far as to say that those with no strong business presence will be forced to pull out of the space.
Gartner claims that global PC shipments reached 62.2 million units in the first quarter of this year, down 2.4 per cent annually. This, it claims, was the first time since 2007 that fewer than 63 million units were shipped in a quarter.
On the other hand, IDC claims that 60.3 million units were shipped over the same period, representing a 0.6 per cent annual increase. Its previous forecast predicted shipments would fall 1.8 per cent year on year, meaning its numbers beat expectations. On top of this, IDC claims although 0.6 per cent growth is pretty much flat, it is the first time since Q1 in 2012 that the PC market has been heading in the upwards direction.
The duo could not agree on EMEA performance either. Gartner said PC shipments in the region reached 17.9 million, a 6.9 per cent annual decline, thanks to all major regions in EMEA experiencing decline. But IDC claims the EMEA traditional PC market stabilised for the second quarter in a row thanks to strong notebook performance. But, IDC added, shipments desktops continued to erode, as expected.
But Gartner and IDC could agree on one thing: that the business market will be the key to keeping the PC market afloat.
Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner, said: "While the consumer market will continue to shrink, maintaining a strong position in the business market will be critical to keep sustainable growth in the PC market. Winners in the business segment will ultimately be the survivors in this shrinking market.
"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. However, there will also be specialised niche players with purpose-built PCs, such as gaming PCs and ruggedised laptops."
Jay Chou, research manager at IDC, said: "The traditional PC market has been through a tough phase, with competition from tablets and smartphones, as well as lengthening life cycles, pushing PC shipments down roughly 30 per cent from a peak in 2011.
"Nevertheless, users have generally delayed PC replacements rather than giving up PCs for other devices. The commercial market is beginning a replacement cycle that should drive growth throughout the forecast. Consumer demand will remain under pressure, although growth in segments such as PC gaming as well as rising saturation of tablets and smartphones will move the consumer market toward stabilisation as well."
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