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Handful of players could be left to battle out corporate PC space

The channel needs to make sure it is backing the market leaders in the PC market as the hardware segment continues to face challenges

The prognosis seems to be fairly simple for those looking to maintain a presence in the PC arena. They have to get a strong foothold in the business market or face extinction.

That fairly sobering forecast is coming from the major analyst houses that have issued the latest guidance on how the PC market performed in Q1.

The fundamental problem is the continued collapse of the consumer market is making anyone relying on those sales extremely vulnerable.

"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," said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner.

"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 specialized niche players with purpose-built PCs, such as gaming PCs and ruggedized laptops," she added.

The vendors that the channel should be backing is fairly clear with Kitagawa outlining just who is going to be battling it out for the commercial market.

"The top three vendors — Lenovo, HP and Dell — will battle for the large-enterprise segment. The market has extremely limited opportunities for vendors below the top three, with the exception of Apple, which has a solid customer base in specific verticals," she said.

Anyone hoping that the views from IDC might be a bit more positive would have found something to cling onto as there was a slightly more upbeat narrative. The analyst house noted that the consumer market had been down but there were signs things could stabalise.

"The traditional PC market has been through a tough phase, with competition from tablets and smartphones as well as lengthening lifecycles pushing PC shipments down roughly 30% from a peak in 2011," said Jay Chou, research manager, IDC PCD Tracker.

"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 like PC Gaming as well as rising saturation of tablets and smartphones will move the consumer market toward stabilization as well," he added.

Gartner reported that for the first time since 2007 quarterly PC shipments fell below 63m units worldwide, which was also a 2.4% decline year-on-year.

The vendor analysis also saw the competition hotting up with Lenovo and HP battling it out for the top spot with the market leader accounting for 19.9% of shipments compared to its rival's 19.5%.

IDC had HP back in top spot for the first time since Q1 2013 with 21.8% market share, with Lenovo coming in second with 20.8%.

IDC's totals for worldwide PC shipments in Q1 came in at 60.3m, which was up by 0.6% on the same quarter last year.

The firm noted that component shortages of NAND and DRAM were having an impact along with the continued PC refresh being undertaken by corporate customers.

In EMEA the market stablised for the second consecutive quarter thanks largely to decent notebook sales. Desktops continued to erode, but no more than had been previously forecasted.

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