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Hardware Technology

PC Sales See 'Longest Decline' In History 385

Posted by timothy
from the demand-elasticity-and-substitution dept.
dryriver writes "Global personal computer (PC) sales have fallen for the fifth quarter in a row, making it the 'longest duration of decline' in history. Worldwide PC shipments totalled 76 million units in the second quarter, a 10.9% drop from a year earlier, according to research firm Gartner. PC sales have been hurt in recent years by the growing popularity of tablets. Gartner said the introduction of low-cost tablets had further hurt PC sales, especially in emerging economies. 'In emerging markets, inexpensive tablets have become the first computing device for many people, who at best are deferring the purchase of a PC,' said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner, said in a statement."
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PC Sales See 'Longest Decline' In History

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  • Whatever (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 11, 2013 @08:35AM (#44249631)

    The PC is doomed, blah blah blah. All the grandma's are buying tablets. Anyone who does any real work are buying PC's or already have what they need. Nothing to see here.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 11, 2013 @08:50AM (#44249835)

      What worries me is that if the PC market can't continuing making profit off volume sales, the prices of a computer (or its components) will go up. I'm still on core 2 due (hey, still works), and waiting for it to die so I can build something with 8-core.

      • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968.gmail@com> on Thursday July 11, 2013 @09:46AM (#44250527) Journal

        Kinda doubt it, with the chips an idle fab is still gonna cost a pretty penny and I think he have reached pretty damned close to the limits on die shrinks, so they'll still crank out enough chips that I doubt prices will climb much beyond what we see now.

        But as someone down in the trenches those pundits with their "Death of the PC,grandma is buying tablets" bullshit? hey morons, it was a BUBBLE and like all bubbles it had to burst, what we are seeing now at around 200-400 million units a year is the NORMAL STATE, its only the bubble that is over. this is as stupid as somebody saying "Well you can't flip houses for instant 40% profit anymore,houses must be dying". Its total horseshit.

        For those that missed the memo the MHz wars created a bubble, with single core speeds so easy for your even less than average programmer able to take advantage of we went from a pre-bubble lifespan of 5-7 years for a PC to one where a PC would be damned lucky if it lasted even 3 because the chips were advancing so fast a PC that was just 2 years old would struggle to run the latest programs. When we switched to cores because taking advantage of SMP is anything BUT easy, with many programs simply not able to thread, and the number of cores jumping so fast? The programs quickly got blown away by the hardware.

        I mean look at what my cheapest build was FIVE years ago...Phenom or Athlon X3 with 4GB of RAM and 500GB HDDs...how many folks will be able to slam that setup enough to need a new one? I have a customer that does extremely intricate Solidworks robot design on a Phenom I X3 and he is happy as a clam with the performance. even myself, who is the major multitasker and rarely have less than 4 things running at once and who built a new PC every year and a half like clockwork, what am I running? A 4 year old Phenom X6 with 8GB of RAM and 3TB of HDD space which no matter how much I throw at it has cycles to spare so other than the GPU upgrade I'll be getting in the fall why would I build a new one? On the mobile side I lucked into one of those AMD E350 netbooks, gets nearly 5 hours on its 3 year old battery and does 1080P over HDMI, why would I buy a bulky new full size?

        So despite the "sky is falling ZOMFG!" articles that I'm half convinced is being encouraged by Ballmer trying to burn MSFT to the ground by forcing them to become Apple (like folks are gonna pay $1000+ for walled Windows gardens, not likely fat boy) PCs aren't going anywhere, now that the bubble is burst folks will just be going back to the 5-7 year cycle. if anything not only have I not met a single person that is "getting rid of the PC" (and since I'm supplementing my PC work with home theater I'd have plenty of opportunities) but its the opposite, even the kids have their own PCs, they have PCs up the ying yang...which is of course why they aren't buying as many, because that 6 year old Pentium D or first gen Athlon X2 still surfs the web just fine,runs Win 7 just fine,so why fix what I ain't broke?

    • by unimacs (597299)

      The PC is doomed, blah blah blah. All the grandma's are buying tablets. Anyone who does any real work are buying PC's or already have what they need. Nothing to see here.

      What's funny about this is that 20 years ago my boss was saying the same thing. Just replace "PC" with mini or mainframe computer. The lines between PC and mini-computer got blurred and I don't know if there really is such a beast as a modern mini computer. It would just be called a server. The thing is that there are far more servers than there every were mini-computers. While the PC won't meet exactly the same fate, I think the number of devices that get referred to as "PCs" will continue to decline. Mo

      • by sjames (1099)

        The mini seems to have just merged into the server class PC. The PCs got faster and now have remote management, ECC RAM, etc like a mini.

        Some (a small majority) of tablets are just PCs in a tablet form factor even now.

        • by unimacs (597299)

          Some (a small majority) of tablets are just PCs in a tablet form factor even now.

          I kind of doubt that actually. Maybe in terms of models but terms of actual sales I think iPads, Kindle Fires, Galaxy Notes, etc have blown away PC based tablets.

        • by hairyfeet (841228)

          Exactly, you can slap an ULV Phenom or Athlon X4 together with some ECC RAM and a RAID and tada! Instant SMB server, does all the jobs we used to get the mini boxes for and its a hell of a lot cheaper and less power hungry.

          What amazes me is there is soooo much money lying on the table for the PC OEMs to just pick up, but they aren't picking it up. What am I talking about? what's making me damned good money right now,HTPCs and home media applications. Folks are getting sick of the ARM based one trick ponies

    • The Mainframe isn't dead, however it isn't as widely used as it once was. They are still new Mainframes being made, and any true Computer Scientist would drool to get their hands on one.
      But that being said, they are not selling as many as they use to, most companies are going to PC based servers, because they are cheaper, and more software flexibility, and you are not as stuck with one company for support, and a large group of developers who can handle the platform.

      Now the PC, are tablets going replace them

    • by cod3r_ (2031620)
      This probably has just as much to do with the fact that the machines are much faster and the operating systems more stable, virus protection more sound, yadda yadda yadda.. but people can keep their same machine for years w/out upgrading. Not like it use to be every year you wanted to upgrade the processor because the machine was godawful slow.
    • Re:Whatever (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Joce640k (829181) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @09:51AM (#44250575) Homepage

      The PC is doomed, blah blah blah. All the grandma's are buying tablets. Anyone who does any real work are buying PC's or already have what they need. Nothing to see here.

      Yep. Most computer users turned out to be media consumers who a) don't need the hassle of maintaining a PC, and b) like the size/shape of tablets.

      The sky won't fall. This "fatal" decline will level off soon when everybody finally figures out which camp they're in.

  • by KatchooNJ (173554) <KatchooNJ.yahoo@com> on Thursday July 11, 2013 @08:36AM (#44249635) Homepage

    Tablets now fall under the umbrella of being a PC. BAM! Problem fixed... no more PC sales decline.

    • Re:I got yer fix! (Score:5, Informative)

      by Internal Modem (1281796) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @08:59AM (#44249963)
      Gartner says that these PC shipment numbers include Windows 8 tablets, but not Apple’s iPads.
      • by Patch86 (1465427)

        Well yeah, but adding "zero" to a total doesn't generally have much impact on the results.

    • The year of the psudo-linux home PC has arrived!!!!! Now having a tight match-up between apple and google, while Microsoft kind of fighting to get in the door... Which I kind of find ironic. Of course I have to say, I'm not a huge fan of either of the main competitors, nor the standard of walled gardens, but what I am a fan of, is having 2 competitors with drastically different base OS, giving developers an incentive to develop onto platform independent technologies, which is good for the existence of home-
  • by Brad1138 (590148) <brad1138@yahoo.com> on Thursday July 11, 2013 @08:37AM (#44249651)
    Computers made in the last 5 or so years are darn fast, and unless you are a hard core gamer, will be plenty fast for the next 5-10 years. I just built my father a modern computer in the hopes he won't need a new one for about 10 years.
    • by Hsien-Ko (1090623) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @08:38AM (#44249663)
      But it has Windows 8.
    • by kelarius (947816) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @08:45AM (#44249755)

      Computers made in the last 5 or so years are darn fast, and unless you are a hard core gamer, will be plenty fast for the next 5-10 years. I just built my father a modern computer in the hopes he won't need a new one for about 10 years.

      Pretty much this. I run a couple of repair shops and we end up fixing 5 year old computers more often than replacing them simply because for day to day browsing tasks, they are more than sufficient. Hell, most of them can even decode HD to some extent, which pretty much rounds out what 90% of the market uses them for. PCs are becoming a niche market, get used to it, it wont change. Tablets and phones are the future, especially as input methods improve (attachable keyboards, docking stations and such)

    • by javakah (932230) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @08:50AM (#44249829)

      Well, more than that, they seem to have stalled in terms of getting much better. 4.5 years ago I built an i7 system. I've been used to getting a new computer every 2-3 years that blows the old one out of the water. This time however, there just hasn't really been much to upgrade to. The CPU specs are still competitive. We're still at quad cores. We've gone from tri-channel memory on the i7's to dual channel. I've upgraded the graphics card though.

      In the past, people would buy new computers because their old ones were made obsolete by new ones (so not necessarily because their old ones stopped working). This hasn't happened in a while, so why would people buy new computers that aren't an upgrade, if their old ones are still working?

      • by h4rr4r (612664) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @09:08AM (#44250075)

        Get an SSD.

        Dropping an SSD into a 4 year old machine will make a bigger difference than getting a new CPU for 90% of people.

        • by javakah (932230)

          You are right on this. The only other changes that I've made beyond upgrading the graphics card have been to add an extra hard drive, as well as adding in an SSD.

      • by gman003 (1693318)

        The high-end i7s are now quad-channel, not triple-channel.

        There's basically two types of i7s - i5s with hyperthreading enabled (880, 2600K, 3770K, 4770K), and Xeons with fewer cores, higher clocks and no multi-socket (960, 990X, 3930K). They're completely different - the former have a dual-channel memory controller, fewer PCIe lanes, often have integrated graphics left in, and max out at quad-core. The latter use a different socket (sometimes Xeon-compatible), have triple- or quad-channel memory (depending

  • definitions matter (Score:5, Insightful)

    by argStyopa (232550) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @08:39AM (#44249683) Journal

    For some reason, there still remains this weird claddistic requirement that "pc's" (ie desktops, I guess?), laptops, and other devices be all conceptualized in separate boxes. Or, it could just be that the companies that are paid to do this sort of info gathering (and sorting) aren't changing as fast as technology...?

    PC stands for 'personal computer', at least it did.

    The laptop was the evolution of the desktop into a more broadly useful form factor.

    The smartphone, and the pad device are precisely the same thing - just other points on the spectrum, not a whole different genus of computer.

    That said, then, if one were to include the counts of all such devices that have the computing power and utility of a desktop even as short as 10 years ago, I hardly believe that the "PC market" is in decline.

    One might even wonder then what the agenda is for such a naked contrivance to present the situation in such a gloomy light might be?

    • by TeknoHog (164938)
      IIRC, Playstation 2/3 had the ability to install another OS for tax reasons. In Europe, pure gaming machines had higher import duties than computers that could be used for "real work". This is a distinction I'd like to keep in some form, even if there are no tax reasons; the ability to install your own OS and software is a big deal for personal freedom.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by MetalliQaZ (539913)

      The laptop was the evolution of the desktop into a more broadly useful form factor.

      The smartphone, and the pad device are precisely the same thing - just other points on the spectrum, not a whole different genus of computer.

      I disagree. The evolution from PC -> tablet is at least as profound as the evolution from mainframe -> minicomputer -> PC. Tablets and smartphones are really more of media consumption devices, which go to great ends to de-emphasize composition of anything greater than a photo, SMS or tweet. Laptops were really just a mobility improvement, where tablets are an entirely different mode of usage.

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      It includes laptops, but excludes tablets and smartphones. (Some analysts idiosyncratically include Windows tablets, or non-Apple tablets, or whatever happens to make a more sellable story.)

      It's interesting because tablet computers are growing while laptops and desktops are shrinking. It's a transitional period.

    • by evilviper (135110)

      PC stands for 'personal computer', at least it did.

      No, it stands for "IBM-compatible Personal Computer", and it always has. IBM called their first x86 computer a PC, and the name stuck. It does NOT mean any and every computing device designed for home use.

      The laptop was the evolution of the desktop into a more broadly useful form factor.

      Laptops are fully compatible with desktops. Same architecture, similar I/O connectors and ports, everything.

      The smartphone, and the pad device are precisely the same thin

    • by BasilBrush (643681) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @10:14AM (#44250893)

      PC stands for 'personal computer', at least it did.

      As far as I'm concerned PC derives from IBM PC. It's a PC if it's an IBM PC, a clone, or one of it's descendants. So it's CPU will be in on of the x86 compatible descendants. And it's firmware will be BIOS, or one of it's descendants such as UEFI (that emulates BIOS for compatibility.)

      The rule of thumb is that a PC is a machine that can run the x86 build of DOS and/or Windows natively.

      ARM based tablets are not PCs. iPad is not a PC. Android tablets aren't PCs. The Microsoft Surface that runs Windows RT isn't a PC. The one that runs Windows 8 is a PC.

  • by tuppe666 (904118) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @08:43AM (#44249733)

    No mention of the fact that Intel and Microsoft are still bleeding customers on gross margins of 70%. Computers have to compete against other computing devices, and they are not doing so on price. Windows 8 being a tablet OS is the nail in the coffin.

  • It isn't tablets (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dreamchaser (49529) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @08:45AM (#44249761) Homepage Journal

    The main reason for the decline of PC sales is that PC's have gotten to the point where their useful life is far longer than it used to be. Other than bleeding edge gamers and enthusiasts, there is just no need to upgrade as often as people once did. The same applies more or less to businesses.

    Nearly every person I know who owns a smartphone and/or a tablet also has some sort of PC. I really don't think the portable device boom is the culprit here.

    • This is probably the most fitting, in my perspective, folks think their PCs are "fast enough" and "capable enough" that when they are tight on money will put off purchasing a new one.

      Windows 8 certainly isn't a reason people are scrambling to upgrade, not only do you get something different (change==bad to most non techies), you loose compatibility with some of the hardware and more importantly the older software you already have. This includes DVD playback.

      You want sales you have to offer carrots, give the

  • by BoRegardless (721219) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @08:47AM (#44249789)

    So why pick a more expensive & less mobile PC?

  • by Tridus (79566) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @08:54AM (#44249905) Homepage

    At the end of the day, we just need fewer PCs than we used to:

    - People can do their "consumption" media (browsing, videos, etc) on tablets or phones. Don't need a PC for that.
    - People who use PCs for work have no reason to upgrade them as often as they used to, as the machines last for years and real world performance gains in hardware have slowed to a trickle. When most of my software is single-threaded, upgrading from dual core to quad core (or more) does absolutely nothing for me.
    - Even gamers don't need to upgrade that often, as requirements have stopped going up unless you want the ultra quality mode. A three year old gaming PC can still play everything new at high quality, and that's never been the case in the past.

    Add it all up, and we need fewer PCs today than we used to need. The ones we do need last longer than they used to. The market isn't going to go away, but it is going to become a lot smaller.

    • by Nemyst (1383049)
      Gamers have always been the fastest to upgrade, but the reason they've been less inclined to do so is that consoles are on a much longer cycle these days. Since games are multiplatform and designed for consoles first, you're guaranteed that a slightly beefier (to account for porting and OS overhead) computer than the console's specs will be able to play just about every game of the generation, which last 5+ years now. With a new generation coming, I'd expect a bump in gaming PC sales as people are finally f
  • It's not tablets (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MpVpRb (1423381) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @08:57AM (#44249931)

    The main reasons that sales are dropping...

    Everybody that needs one has one, and they work well enough. Very few people need the latest and greatest

    The various different activation and protection schemes make it a royal pain to upgrade

    I used to buy new hardware frequently, and just clone my hard drive

    Now, I hold on to hardware for as long as possible

    I fear that if I upgrade, I will end up spending hours on hold waiting to convince some dude in India that I'm not a pirate

  • by 0123456 (636235) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @08:58AM (#44249949)

    I suspect this is primarily because people who think of buying a new PC go to the store and see Windows 8 and think 'WTF? Why do I want a tablet interface on my 24" monitor?'

    In a vain attempt to gain a few percent market share on tablets, Microsoft are killing their PC cash cow.

  • by Pollux (102520) <speter@tedata.[ ].eg ['net' in gap]> on Thursday July 11, 2013 @09:01AM (#44249999) Journal

    Perpetual exponential growth? Good luck with that.

    I would expect this to be obvious to the casual observer, but I guess not. So, let me enumerate:
    Primary reasons for the decline:

    1) The PC has been around now for over 20 years. It no longer possesses excitement and consumer appeal.
    2) SMARTPhones and tablets are better meeting the needs and desires of the consumer; their increasing sales are supplanting PC sales.
    3) The PC market is saturated, either due to consumer need or financial constraint. (Plenty of foreign markets have consumers but lack capital to meet the saturation levels of Western countries.)
    4) Digital product producers, online retailers, and brick & mortar stores have all been significantly marketing tablet and SMARTPhone devices to consumers while ignoring their traditional PC products.
    5) Tablets and SMARTPhones have much shorter average lifespans than traditional PCs, creating more consistant and continual demand for their replacement.

    Ergo, you have a very simple recipe for the decline of PC sales.

    • I've ignored your drivel about a smartphone replacing the Desktop Computer...even though I agree the smartphone is a personal computer, I find them complementary devices.

      Looking at your statement "PC has been around now for over 20 years. It no longer possesses excitement and consumer appeal." It needs to generate it. It needs to lower prices...produce compelling exciting machines, Where is the sambuntu +android compatible 8 core ARM laptop with 4X displays for under $200. The only think old is Microsoft +

    • I would add to that Win 8 didn't help matters. At best Win 8 offers nothing exciting to a consumer. At worst, it has driven them away.
  • not correct (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slashmydots (2189826) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @09:03AM (#44250013)
    "PC sales have been hurt in recent years by the growing popularity of tablets."
    That's BS, it's Windows 8's fault entirely. This study doesn't count used PC resale or a drop in computer (scrap) recycling levels. Tablets replace laptops, not PCs. There is no drop because of tablets. It is completely Windows 8's fault.
  • I bought a T61p Thinkpad in 2007, and it's still my everyday machine. I've upgraded the memory to 8GB, hard disk, replaced a keyboard, and the battery, all very economically when the prices of those components came down. I love this machine, especially its keyboard, and am loathe to give it up unless I can find another with the same layout. In particular the pgup/pgdn/home/end keys are layed out in a manner which makes them very useful and natural for navigating within a window. I wish laptop chassis we
  • win8 and UEFI (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ka9dgx (72702) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @09:28AM (#44250341) Homepage Journal
    The combination of Windows 8 and UEFI BIOS makes it now impossible to buy a general purpose PC in a typical retail store. The new machines won't boot linux or Win7.

    Who would buy a PC you can't use?

  • by Larry_Dillon (20347) <dillon.larry@gma i l . c om> on Thursday July 11, 2013 @09:28AM (#44250343) Homepage

    Many people are finding that they didn't need a PC in the first place when all they do is light web browsing and posting on Facebook. Previous to the smartphone/tablet, they needed a PC to do that. I think we'll see more special-purpose devices taking over functions that were previously relegated to the general-purpose PC.

  • by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @09:42AM (#44250509)
    I have what I need and it is quite old. I wouldn't mind an upgrade but I don't have to get one. Plus if I do want an upgrade I will buy a used machine where someone put the best of everything into it 3 years ago.

    Most desktops can be repaired for around $70 so they can last until they are so old it becomes silly. Laptops are way less repairable and more breakable so they vanish from the pool of used machines faster.

    But one factor keeping laptops running is that when the batteries die people just turn them into desktops and are happy with the mobility of their phones and tablets.

    The biggest factor keeping people away from new machines is the relentless bloatware infesting most new machines. We ./'rs can remove that crap in a second but for most users they are stuck with the stuff and the various ads annoy and scare them.
  • The PC is not dead (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kimvette (919543) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @09:51AM (#44250581) Homepage Journal

    The PC is not dead. For Windows, it was nearly perfected with Windows 7. Intel's Core i5 and i7 plus NVIDIA or AMD GPUs + 16GB RAM + SSD deliver the computing power of supercomputers from just a few years ago, and complete everyday tasks almost instantly. Why do people need to buy a PC that is only marginally faster, only to downgrade to Windows 8.n which is user-hostile on the desktop?

    Tablets are new and rapidly advancing and people are buying them to do many things (snapshots, social networking, light web browsing) on the go, on their sofa, etc. but not to actually replace their PCs. Nearly any PC made in the last five years is "good enough" so why replace it before it fails?

    The PC isn't dead; the market is simply saturated with computers that are finally "good enough" and a new computer is a downgrade thanks to Microsoft forcing the tablet UI upon everyone. I've had to install Classic Shell for Windows 8 users who are novices and complained the OS is unusable, so you can't convince me at all that Windows 8 is good for newbies.

    Then for business, the Metro^H^H^H^H^HModern interface breaks usability and productivity; Windows 2.0's "innovative" overlapping windows (not so innovative actually - it was copied from Amiga) is removed. I don't know about you but when I am doing any kind of sysadmin or development work, I often have five to seven applications open, often overlapped so I can read documenation as I write scripts and code, or even work on spreadsheets.

    I'd like Windows 8 if it came with the Aero interface and still supported glass, and the touch UI could be enabled as a choice - or even if it were the default and could be turned off, and if Metro apps could be moved around freely rather than be confined to full screen or tiled. I don't know about you, but even if I cared about touch screens on desktops and laptops, it would be a very secondary UI for me, because I want to keep my hands on the keyboard and mouse. I'm not new to touch screens either - I've been a PDA/tablet fan since WinCE. I own PocketPC (which I still use on occasion), iOS, and Android PDAs and tablets, and have used Windows XP tablets and each is great for its purpose, but when I did use the XP tablet as a desktop, I docked it and used only the keyboard and mouse. I never once used the touch screen while it was docked, nor would I bother with Win8's touch screen on a desktop or laptop.

  • by BenJeremy (181303) on Thursday July 11, 2013 @10:03AM (#44250765)

    Performance isn't as much of a factor any more - a 7 year old PC will browse the web and get your e-mail just as well as a brand new one. Monitor resolutions are stagnating at 1080p... video cards that are 3 generations old still play games great on single 1080p monitors.

    In short, for most people (gaming enthusiasts and developers excluded), older PCs still work fine, so WHY UPGRADE?

    Yeah, maybe a new PC will boot in 10 seconds, or that office app will launch in 50% of the time as the old one, but when that 50% is only another 2 seconds, who cares?

    There was a time when improvements in PCs were more dramatic - you could FEEL the change performance between one PC and the next, but we've entered an era of diminishing returns with those performance improvements. Sure, we will see good improvements in media encoding time, or see lag on a game that is run on 3 monitors, but most people don't do these things all the time, or even some of the time.

    This is why PC sales have dropped. Everybody who needs a computer has them, and most people are ok with the computer they have, until it breaks down. This obviously will slow down sales.

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