Remarkable: the PC market saw a tiny gain last quarter!

PC shipments went up 1% in the fourth quarter of 2014, and up 13% year-to-year

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
January 13, 2015
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We've been hearing for years that the personal computer was dead. Deader than dead, and that tablets were already dancing on its grave. Never mind the fact that the PC is still the best devices for certain use cases, such as typing an article like this one, and for gaming. Or that there was no way you were going to see an office of people sitting in front of their tablets. 

Reports started showing up last year that already indicated what most of us already knew: the PC market wasn't going away so quickly and that it might actually start seeing a revival. And now comes the numerical evidence: PC shipments actually went up during the fourth quarter of 2014, according to data out from Gartner on Monday. Gartner defines as desktop computers, notebooks, and “ultramobiles," or laptop/tablet hybrids.

The gains were as modest as they could possibly, with a mere 1% increase to 83.7 million units, but after two years of decline the industry will take what it can get.

The reason for the small gain is that the market is "quietly stabilizing after the installed base reduction driven by users diversifying their device portfolios,” said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner.

Tablets, the devices that so many predicted would be the death knell for the PC, have penetrated the market, and are stabilizing as well. There is some trouble on the horizon, though, as emerging markets are more mobile-centric than established ones. And they have no use for big personal computers.

For now, though, everything seems to be kind of settling down after a few years of major disruption.

The biggest worldwide seller of PCs in the fourth quarter was Lenovo, which accounted for 19.4% of the market, with 16.2 million units sold. That was a 7.5% increase from the 15.1 it sold in the same quarter the year before.

The company with the biggest gain was HP, which sold 15.7 million units, for an 18.8% worldwide market share. That was a 16% increase from selling 13.5 million the same time a year before. 

PC shipments totaled 18.1 million units in the United States in the fourth quarter of 2014, a 13.1% increase year-to-year, making for the the fastest growth seen in the market in the last four years.

HP dominated the market in the United States last quarter, with 5.3 million sold and a 29.2% market share. That was an increase of 26.2% year-to-year. It was followed by Dell, with a 22.6% share and Apple, which had an 11.7% share.

There could be some even better news on the horizon for the PC in 2015; with the imminent release of Windows 10, some believe it could actually drive PC sales even higher.

"The Microsoft haters may not like it, but the company still holds a powerful sway with both consumers and businesses and many have been eagerly awaiting how they would pull themselves out of the hole they put themselves into with Windows 8," wrote Bob O'Donnell, the president, founder and chief analyst at TECHnalysis Research. "Early signs and early reports are all very encouraging and I believe Windows 10 will end up being a bit hit for the company. More importantly, Windows 10 will keep Microsoft as a relevant point of conversation when it comes major platforms for smart connected devices."

Most importantly, he believes that Windows 10 will "likely lead to intriguing new designs from major PC vendors and give them a renewed sense of vigor."

Despite all the good news for the PC market, though, it likely won’t be enough to stave off the rising tablet tide. We’ve all known that tablets would eclipse the PC market at some point in the future, and Gartner researchers believe that will be 2015. Researchers estimate that some 321 million tablets will be shipped in 2015, up 23.9% from 207 million in 2013. 

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