Speculation is mounting that HP will make a summer comeback and retake the crown as the world's top PC manufacturer from rival Lenovo.
Apparently, HP is scoring some major government contracts around the world that will bolster sales as much as 15 to 20 per cent, while Lenovo's forecast is for a quarterly shipment decline of as much as 12 per cent.
Those crisscrossing trend lines should tell you everything and nothing about what you need to know about PC sales. For the past year, HP and Lenovo have been taking turns at the top of PC Mountain, edging one another out of the number one market share slot by fractions of one per cent.
All the while, overall PC sales continue to fall. In 2012, PC sales dropped nearly nine per cent. The 2013 forecast calls for further decline up to 11 per cent.
The demise of the PC is evident in the struggling performance of many vendors.
Microsoft and Intel are adjusting strategies as Windows 8 failed to ignite a general surge in new PC sales. The shift away from PCs to tablets and smartphones is palpable, as seen in Apple becoming the most valuable company in the US and one of the richest in the world.
Dell, with 50 per cent of its revenue from PC sales, is labouring to go private to accelerate its enterprise transformation. Software companies across the board are pushing cloud applications to offset declines in traditional licences that would have ordinarily gone on new PCs.
It all sounds pretty ominous except for one thing: US resellers don't see it. In fact, providers tell me they're seeing increasing demand for and sales of lowly PCs.
They say PC sales are brisk as businesses invest in new machines and replace aging legacy units.
Why the difference? A few things are happening beneath the surface:
Windows 8 may not have been a catalyst for PC sales, particularly in businesses. However, Microsoft's forthcoming discontinuation of Windows XP is likely driving PC refresh activity.
Businesses loved Windows XP - it was stable, secure and had plenty of applications and drivers. Best of all, they've had a decade to fine-tune around it. Few want to get caught without support when it dries up next spring.
The shift to tablets and smartphones is mostly a consumer phenomenon. Business users like tablets, too, but they use them for information consumption, not generation. Conventional notebook PCs remain more practical for business users who must deal with copious amounts of information.
PCs are low-margin, but their attached sales are not. Providers can make money selling PCs at or near cost because they're using selling support and managed services contracts alongside.
Additionally, resellers sell complementary products, such as peripherals and software, that enhance the value and margins associated with the PC sale.
PCs don't always start a conversation; they're sometimes dragged into a deal. When a business is buying storage, networking, security or other infrastructure, providers have the opportunity to talk about PCs.
That can lead to a new sale or sales enhancement.
Of course, VARs saying they see an increase in PC sales is relative. It's much easier for a local or regional provider to mark an increase in PC sales than it is for a vendor dealing in millions of unit shipments per quarter.
And whatever blip is recorded by resellers isn't enough to offset the decline in consumer sales that is hitting the books of HP, Lenovo, Dell and Microsoft.
Is the PC dead? Perhaps to some, but not everyone.
Larry Walsh is president and chief executive officer of Channelnomics
As part of our special editorial partnership, CRN is republishing this article from Channelnomics
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