Business market shows signs of life but PCs continue to struggle

PC shipment numbers from Gartner and IDC show a market that continues to be in decline although the business sector is showing signs of improvement

Decent channel orders of Windows 8.1 systems, back to school sales and signs of life in the business market helped the PC market come in ahead of expectations in the third quarter with the decline in shipments not being as marked as forecasts had predicted.

The latest IDC numbers showed a 7.6% decline year-on-year in worldwide PC shipments, but this had been predicted to be a 9.5% drop and the improvement on forecast was mainly down to Lenovo, HP and Dell generating sales in the enterprise and public sectors.

Numbers out from Gartner showed a 8.6% drop in shipments year-on-year with the analyst house noting that sales had dropped to their lowest volume in Q3 since 2008 as tablets continued to eat away at the traditional PC market.

At the consumer end of the market the word used to describe the market was 'lukewarm' by IDC with the sluggish demand hitting the performance of the players focused on that end of the spectrum, including Acer and Asus.

In EMEA the market continued to shrink with the consumer market remaining weak with users continuing to make a move towards tablets and the analyst house warned that the channel was trying to reduce inventory levels, making it even harder for vendors to get stock out in large numbers. Laptops were hardest hit and desktops remained constrained and the commercial market remained healthier for demand than the home end.

Gartner numbers showed a 13.7% decline in EMEA, a sixth straight quarter of dropping shipments, with the analyst house also pointing the finger at inventory issues as a contributing factor.

"During the third quarter many vendors went through product transitions to Intel's new Haswell and Bay Trail processors, while preparing for the October launch of Windows 8.1. These product transitions and the clearing of old inventory that is taking place through the third and fourth quarters of 2013, have played a part in the slowdown of the PC market in EMEA," said Isabelle Durand, principal research analyst at Gartner.

In terms of vendor rankings Lenovo held onto its crown at the top of the worldwide market, followed by HP, Dell and Acer. The vendor continues to push for a top position in all territories and according to Gartner EMEA rankings is still sitting behind HP in that region.

Despite the declines in the market not coming in quite as bad as expected the comments from IDC were downbeat with a sobering message for those hoping that there might be a seasonal bounce reversing the downward trend next year.

"The third quarter was pretty close to forecast, which unfortunately doesn’t reflect much improvement in the PC market, or potential for near-term growth," said Loren Loverde, vice president worldwide PC Trackers.

"Whether constrained by a weak economy or being selective in their tech investments, buyers continue to evaluate options and delay PC replacements. Despite being a little ahead of forecast, and the work that's being done on new designs and integration of features like touch, the third quarter results suggest that there's still a high probability that we will see another decline in worldwide shipments in 2014."

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