PC market shows signs of a turnaround after historic slide

PC market shows signs of a turnaround after historic slide

Business demand for desktops and laptops is expected to return to growth early next year after a series of declines in recent quarters. But uncertainty remains, as macroeconomic concerns persist.

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Global PC shipments fell during the second quarter of 2023, according to preliminary data from two analyst firms, but recent sales offered some indication of a market turnaround following recent historic declines.

Shipments of desktop and laptop devices fell 16.6% year-on-year during the April-June quarter, according to the latest figures from Gartner, while IDC pegged the decrease at a higher-than-anticipated 13.4%.

The figures contrast with even sharper declines in recent quarters, with both analyst firms reporting dramatic sales drops of roughly 30% year-on-year in April.

The slowing decline is an indication that shipment volumes may have already reached a nadir, according to Gartner director analyst Mikako Kitagawa, with a rebound in business spending on devices expected in 2024.

“There has been progress in reducing PC inventory after more than a year of issues, supported by a gradual increase in business PC demand,” Kitagawa said. “Gartner expects that PC inventory will normalise by the end of 2023, and PC demand will return to growth starting in 2024.”

Market leader Lenovo saw double-digit declines globally during the second quarter, with EMEA and Asia Pacific challenging regions for the vendor, said Gartner. The company fared slightly better in Latin America and North America, however.

Dell and Acer both also saw double-digit declines, with Dell experiencing its fifth consecutive quarterly decrease. HP’s shipments remained roughly flat during the second quarter, according to both analyst firms.

One bright spot did show up for the overall market: Apple’s shipments grew 10.3% year on year, according to IDC, as supply chain issues in the second quarter of 2022 eased. Another analyst firm, Canalys, reported a 51% increase for Apple during the same period, noting demand for the popular new 15-in. Macbook Air.

Overall shipments in the US declined 8.6%, falling to 18.1 million, Gartner noted, as a relatively stable economy allayed business concerns, generating demand for PCs. There was notable investment in Chromebooks by educational institutions, along with public sector spending on laptops, the analyst firm said.

The EMEA market fared worse. It was down 14.6%, the sixth consecutive quarterly decline; political unrest, inflationary pressure and interest rate hikes dampened demand.

“The disruptive business outlook is limiting business PC spending in EMEA, as companies reduce PC budgets as a cost management strategy,” said Kitagawa. “Business confidence must increase to influence stronger PC buying patterns. Meanwhile, consumer demand remains low, as all income brackets are affected by inflationary pressures.”

Economic uncertainty in China also affected PC demand, contributing significantly to a 26.9% decline in Asia Pacific.

Total global shipments during the second quarter amounted to 59.6 million according to Gartner; IDC pegged global shipments at 61.6 million.

Amid some signs of optimism for growth later this year, the outlook for business spending remains uncertain.

“On the commercial side, workforce reductions (for many big companies) as well as the introduction of generative AI only add more confusion as to where to place an already reduced budget,” said Ryan Reith, group vice president for IDC's Client Device Trackers.

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