No recovery in sight for PC industry following 'most severe yearly slump'

IDC expects total shipments to fall -10.1% in 2013

PC in bin

The PC industry horror show is expected to reach a particularly gloomy conclusion in 2013 by producing "by far the most severe yearly contraction on record", according to market watcher IDC.

How does that translate in numbers? A dismal -10.1% year-on-year decline, going by IDC's Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker, marking an even sharper drop than the predicted 9.7%.

If you've been following the script, you'll be familiar with the story: buoyed by more powerful innards, 4G connectivity and increasingly sophisticated software, portable smartphones and tablets are now the preferred choice over PCs for many people.

Chief concern

As such, IDC reckons that sales to consumers will fall 15% before 2013 is out and will even decline in usually strong emerging markets. In a statement on the company's website, IDC Senior Research Analyst Jay Chou cited a lack of reasons to replace older PCs as the "chief concern" for vendors.

He said: "While IDC research finds that the PC still remains the primary computing device – for example, PCs are used more hours per day than tablets or phones – PC usage is nonetheless declining each year as more devices become available.

"And despite industry efforts, PC usage has not moved significantly beyond consumption and productivity tasks to differentiate PCs from other devices. As a result, PC lifespans continue to increase, thereby limiting market growth."

Business case

The case isn't quite the same for businesses, many of which are scrabbling to upgrade from Windows XP before Microsoft pulls supporting on April 6 2014. PC sales to businesses are expected to decline 5% during the year and are less impacted due to "more stable PC investment planning and a smaller impact from tablets", according to IDC.

IDC Vice President of Worldwide Quarterly PC Trackers said that convertible Windows-based tablets will form an "important growth segment" to the overall market and are expected to grow 39.3% by 2017, accounting for 10% of a combined PC and Windows Tablet market by 2016. IDC previously blamed Windows 8 for "slowing" the PC market after retailers struggled to sell PCs toting Microsoft's tile-based OS.

Overall, IDC puts PC volumes at a whisker above what they were in 2008. Analysts including IDC and Gartner have previously highlighted 2011 as the year that PC sales peaked before the domination of mobile devices begun.