Enterprises soften PC decline during worst 'school' quarter in five years

Windows 8.1 offers hope, but the PC isn't out of detention yet

PC in bin

The PC market continued its long and drawn-out descent during the third quarter as consumers opted for tablets. It wasn't as bad is it could have been though, mainly thanks to strong performances from business-focused vendors.

That's according to analysts at both Gartner and IDC, who pitched the market's year-on-year decline at 10.9% and 9.5% respectively. It marked the sixth consecutive quarter of tumbling sales figures and its worst performance during the typically strong 'back to school' period for five years, according to Gartner.

Consumer-focused vendors Acer and Asus both suffered double-digit hits to market share during the three month period, while strong business performers Lenovo, HP and Dell skipped merrily toward double-digit gains.

According to Gartner, Beijing-based PC behemoth Lenovo held onto the top spot by a whisker with 17.6% of global sales, edging HP's 17.1%. Both still sit comfortably ahead of third-placed Dell, which grew market share by 1% during the quarter.

Seventh heaven

Gartner analyst Ranjit Atwal told TRPro that Lenovo, Dell and HP benefited during the quarter from organisations leaping off Microsoft's ticking XP timebomb onto the comparatively safer vessel that is Windows 7.

He said: "The market is still weak overall, but there may be a few bright spots ahead on the professional side. With Windows 8.1 tablets and mobile PCs on the horizon, vendors may have something to speak, but not shout about during this holiday season.

"They now have a platform also of interest to consumers that has all of the attributes that should have been there three or four years ago - such as battery life and touchscreens - the aspects that have been in phones and tablets for quite a few years."

Tablet temptation

According to Gartner, tablets and inexpensive media consumption devices are replacing existing PCs or making people hold off buying new ones in both developing and mature markets.

Atwal says that the variety of tablets on offer is also giving organisations food for thought on how to best equip their employees.

He said: "In the instance of dockable tablets, it's whether they enhance the lives of salespeople and those who are on the road, along with the question of whether a 10-inch screen is going to have to be supported by a 17-inch monitor.

"The key point for vendors is that they need to think about different devices. If they go for like-for-like replacement activity [of installed PCs] then it won't work as there's a longer sales cycle. They need to sell stuff quickly given the margins in the industry."