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back to article PC market facing worst-ever slump in 2013

Analyst house IDC has revealed its latest predictions of the PC industry, and the results aren't pretty: shipments of desktop systems are expected to fall by 7.8 per cent this year, the biggest decline in the platform's history. Laptops aren't immune, either. IDC predicts that tablets will outsell laptops this year, and that by …

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Pint

Windows 8

Simple as that.

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Re: Windows 8

I doubt if Windows 8 is the cause,it is more of a victim of circumstance. I would say though, that it happened to come along at the same time as a major recession, at a time when tablets and smart phones were reaching maturity and in which the non-power users realised that a PC was overkill in relation to their real needs.

W8 is also on the, "I hate Windows Cycle" ( every second version) and it was developed for touch screens so it shouldn't really have any influence over the non touch screen market.

Business is also extending refresh from 3 years to 4 years for financial reasons, PCs now have far more power than office workers require, XP is still fine for business, so there are fewer reasons to upgrade ( that's what the bean counters want anyway).

PC sales are failing because there has been a paradigm shift in what users currently use/require. It's called evolution.

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Anonymous Coward

@Khaptain (Re: Windows 8)

" it was developed for touch screens so it shouldn't really have any influence over the non touch screen market"

The fact that this touch screen OS is bundled with each non touch screen PC sold may indeed have some influence over the non touch screen market.

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Re: @Khaptain (Windows 8)

For those that know the difference ( The El Reg crowd), they would simply uninstall and reinstall system of choice.

For those that don't know ( Typical Joe Punter types), they would continue to buy anyway.

In other wordds:

Those that know about PCs don't have to worry about the OS, others are usually too uninformed to care.

That's it is why I do not believe the W8 is the influential factor.

.

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Naah, its market saturation

I have two laptops that I use for work (including lots of compiling etc). One is about 3 years old and the other about 18 months.

Laptops are not cheap and pretty fast and have more or less stabilized in terms of their capability. I am not at all motivated to replace either of these machines.

Before that, it was worth buying a new laptop every 18 months or so because the newer laptop had a material improvement in specs.

Before that it was worth changing from a desktop to a laptop because laptops had become powerful enough to replace the desktop.

Before that it was worth buying a new desktop every 18 months or so to get more speed/RAM/whatever.

That long history of the need to upgrade caused a lot of computer sales. Now PCs have got good enough and there's no real need to buy another one except to replace a broken unit.

Once a high % of the market have what they need, the market becomes saturated and sales plummet.

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Re: Naah, its market saturation

@Charles

If it were market saturation would the prices not normally fall ? Which I do not believe is currently the case.

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Mushroom

Re: @Khaptain (Windows 8)

"For those that don't know ( Typical Joe Punter types), they would continue to buy anyway."

I doubt they will continue to buy Windows because they don't need Windows... never have.

Now there is a natural progression from the smartphone to the fondle slab...

The new world is "low cost", "always on", "mobile" and "connected" without "WTF" and the BSofD.

Which rather places Windows in the same bracket as "black and white" TVs and bad B movies.

Microsoft have been in denial for years because marketing has more important than substance...

Home users have been in denial for years because they couldn't find a usable alternative...

Parents were made to feel guilty if the kids didn't have a "computa" for their education...

Corporate IT have been [mostly] too scared to make a technical decision for years...

Now there is a lot of "anger" being unleashed...

Now budgets are really tight...

Now there is a real alternative for the majority of "users"...

Now there are "users" with a real smile on their face.

Welcome to the "dumbed down" world of consumer computing.

Evidently the monkeyman was too busy with his iphone to even bother using his own products.

Evidently the monkeyman didn't realise that the marketing worked while his products didn't [for most "users"].

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HBT

Re: Naah, its market saturation

I desperately want to replace my 6 year old Pentium M Dell notebook with a modern one WITH THE SAME RESOLUTION SCREEN (1920x1200, 16:10), and my trusty HP netbook with a faster one.

Because I do actual work on my systems, and 1080p isn't good enough, and nothing comes close to the netbook form factor for handiness when doing it on the move.

Despite knowing many other likeminded and equally stuck people, who also use their systems for actual work, the industry seems to have decided that we don't matter, and offers us only a million me-too products that add nothing we need, but take away things we really do need (and took for granted 6 years ago).

Given the declining market we'd like to think that some enterprising OEM will wake up, think for themselves and fill these niches. Because they aren't niches, they're bloody big holes in the market that really shouldn't be there

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windows 8 is not the reason, people just dont want to sit at a desk and use a computer anymore they want to sit in their living room or bedroom or kitchen and use it.

Even laptops were not really truly portable so didnt make much of a dent in desktop sales imho but now you are getting tablets that can pretty much consume all the data you need with there is no reason for a large portion of users to buy desktop computers.

I wonder what % of people only use their computers for internet, email/social networking and shopping.....probably a pretty high number I would guess.

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While Windows 8 is not the reason, it certainly has not helped either.

Otherwise you are right - the majority of home users are not El Reg readers with specialist work loads and a fixation with technology, they just want something simple and easy to use for Facebook and on-line shopping etc. Tablets are good enough for that, in fact, very much better while relaxing in the settee, and only a modest proportion will need a laptop, let alone a desktop, once they have one.

There will still be a demand for desktops and laptops for business applications, power users, gamers, etc, but it looks like the majority of money has moved away from those now.

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Pint

Windows 8 not helping

You're right, it's not *all* windows 8's fault for declining sales.

However, it sure isn't helping. Nobody (and I mean *nobody*) I've talked to has liked Win8 on the desktop.

I think the article draws an incorrect conclusion from BYOD. I don't believe that cost is the primary factor for a BYOD purchase. BYOD allows people to select the laptop (machine, whatever) that makes sense for *them*, not the cheapest one that a company can purchase in bulk.

It's an important distinction. While some will buy the cheapest laptop, most will buy the best they can afford. I know I did -- I went for a top of the line Macbook Pro. It's going to last me 5 years (as my last one did), and I want a system that will still be relevant after 5 years.

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Pint

Re: Windows 8 not helping

I like windows 8 on the desktop but your right not many do as is reflected by my numerous down votes on this site :)

Funnily though a lot of people who say their friends or parents didnt like it never actually took the time to let the people try it they just told them it was bad and moved on.

Either way, why would windows 8 be anything to do with sales of pcs when you can simply switch it back to windows 7 or whatever else you might want to use? I don't follow that logic.

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Devil

Re: Windows 8 not helping

Either way, why would windows 8 be anything to do with sales of pcs when you can simply switch it back to windows 7 or whatever else you might want to use? I don't follow that logic.

For the same reason you claim Win8 isn't suffering. Most non-El Reg people aren't savvy enough to even know you can swap out the OS. And even those of us who can do that swap, can't get a Win7 license from MS anymore, as I painfully found out back in December 2012. If you go to any brick&mortar store, you'll see that most if not all PCs are now toting the Playskool interface. You'll also notice that *nobody* is checking them out at all, and the few that do get annoyed pretty quickly.

I've only met one person who voluntarily bought win8 and likes it. Another person did the switch, then switched back after giving win8 a shot for 3 months. The rest are avoiding win8 like the plague, and this includes "normal people". Hell, it even involves "normal people without techie friends giving advice".

And well, companies have all but banned Win8 on premises. Most are still doing WinXP to 7 migrations, but new PC orders were halted when OEMs started offering only Win8 boxes. Oops!

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Anonymous Coward

University students and postgrads need a PC, almost without exception. Most teenage schoolchildren need more than a tablet. We see increasing numbers working from home. Millions of self-employed. All adds up to many millions who do more than shop yet have comparatively modest requirements beyond the domain where tablets and phones work well.

This 'Facebook and shopping' meme may apply in non-trivial numbers but still the majority of households remain to support a healthy PC market as users see benefits of upgrading 7 year old systems. [Note to HP et al. This means you have to incorporate clear improvements and tell people about them.]

Possibly the most endangered species is the larger pure play tablets like the iPad 9.6" - a market being squeezed at one end by handy 7/8" tablets and at the other by modern, larger, hybrid/detachable notebooks that combine tablet duty with full PC functionality.

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Linux

Surely you jest

> they just want something simple and easy to use for Facebook and on-line shopping etc.

Tablets are actually pretty crummy for online shopping. Tablets do OK with a very limited focus and a very small list of features. Beyond that, tiny screens and the tablet interface fare poorly.

The problem with the PC market is that a 5 year old PC is good enough. They're not like tablets where a year old model seems hopelessly out of date. Even an ancient PC can run circles around current tablets when it comes to pure computation. Plus PCs are much more flexible.

Even as appliances, "tablet hardware" does poorly against 5 year old PCs that were trailing edge hardware even then.

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Facepalm

Re: Windows 8 not helping

Funnily though a lot of people who say their friends or parents didnt like it never actually took the time to let the people try it they just told them it was bad and moved on.

So it's not Microsoft's fault, it's down to their customers not trying hard enough??

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Anonymous Coward

If I am to use the people who buy computers where I work, about 90% of them. Most people just want to "get on the net, check email, pay bills".

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Re: Windows 8 not helping

there are many that like 'fancy, showy things..' ok if you are only doing games and facebook..

but they are not very productive, when you are just trying to organise your letters and finances!

and I guess you have not even found out how to 'switch it back' to win7' ??? It mainly needs a long call to MS in USA, a temporary 'key', then another call to the US, when the new key gets in,... and when you have to re-install, more complications...

- far simpler to get a proper Win7 PC, from many companies now doing them...

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Anonymous Coward

They only have themselves to blame...

Redacting netbooks... Pushing pricey ultrabooks. What did they expect?

PC makers started to piss me off when they decided it was ok to dupe users with 'Intel Graphics'.

It was a better world when graphics cards were included by default with mid-level+ laptops and PC's.

But ok, I'm a games developer, so I'm biased!

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Re: They only have themselves to blame...

Yup, when those ultrabooks and medium-high end laptops cost more than a fondle slab and yet have poorer (or equivalent) screen resolution, WFT would you expect?

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Trollface

Re: They only have themselves to blame...

>ok to dupe users with 'Intel Graphics'.

Intel GMA actually stands for Games, My Ass. (credit to whoever I stole that from long ago)

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The definition of greed

Easy remedy for the: "PC Market Facing Worst-Ever Slump In 2013".

Drop your prices you greedy mother-fondler's!

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K
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WTF?

with nearly 25% ... claiming to have purchased the primary PC

Who the f**k did they speak to, a company full of tele-workers? I smell BS with this one!

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russian roulette

The rubber has to meet the road somewhere so one or more of the OEM PC makers is going to report a quarterly loss for the ages this year.

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Win 8 sucks...

...but the real problem is a worldwide economic meltdown that has not recovered and looks to continue perhaps for another five years. While a few industries or players in a particular industry such as cell phones or new car sales are doing fine, most industries are in the toilet and it may get worse before it get's better. I see companies that have been in existence for 20-30-40 years closing their doors forever. This undermines the entire economy and it's a worldwide issue including Europe, the U.S. and Asia, so it's a big deal to say the least.

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Anonymous Coward

BYOD ?

Does that really mean Bring Your Own Disease ?

Next time you see somebody with a tablet, have a look at that screen they take home and read on the bog, smeary isnt it ?

A well travelled colleague once said "if a Hotel has porn channels, dont touch the TV remote"

This is the reason to bring your own device.

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boosting the PC market

Desktops. Year on year improvements in desktop PCs are modest, very different from the heady days when every 2 years we saw real noticeable improvements in performance and functionality. To address the '5 years old but still good enough' obstacle to sales, Intel and AMD and the OEMs need be proactive. How about some reasonably priced 8 core processors and higher definition panels (new games consoles and high res mobile devices make all this dead easy to communicate). As well as games and Photoshop lets have more applications that can take advantage of modern CPU+GPU and are not ashamed to tell people their old system is too underpowered. A widely accepted 'power index' for desktop PCs could go a long way to help by telling people just how out of date their machine is.

Notebooks. Increase battery life and improve graphics res (e.g. make 1080p entry level). USB 3.0 only. Lets see more nice fast USB 3.0 peripherals that make a point of saying USB 2.0 equates to out of date notebook. Lets see some old vs. new comparisons in adverts, tell people how much has changed since they last bought a notebook. This is all no brainer stuff so get products and the message out there.

PC Tablets. The new format 11"+ hybrids, detachables means you no longer need to carry around a large tablet and/or a PC, one larger screen device is enough for both uses. Original iPad is yesterdays news. Future is 7/8" device and/or PC hybrid. Its a step forward so promote it all clearly and price for volume.

Apply these changes and see turnaround of the PC market, no need to worry about further decline in 2014. It really is that simple.

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bodging the PC market

A speed index would not push the market. At home, the family have three tasks that are too demanding for a Raspberry Pi. Those three tasks* are handled by an ancient x86 with an SSD, but could be handled by a more modern ARM. Although there are a few people who require an 8 core CPU for work, for the vast majority, an old PC is fine, and a cheap SSD upgrade will be far more effective than a CPU+Motherboard+memory upgrade with or without a noisy graphics card. The message most people are looking for is 'cheap and silent' not 'even faster than your existing PC that is already more than fast enough'. There is already an excellent 'power index': fanless. Intel and AMD have recently worked that out. They are trying to join the market, but on their terms.

The mobile market is competitive. You can buy only the features you want. The laptop market is segmented: if you want any one good feature you must pay for an ultra book with many expensive features. I think the existing players will cling to segmentation for the rest of the year. The feature I have always wanted was a rugged modular laptop I could upgrade like a desktop. By the end of the year new phones will be USB3. Bolt a screen, battery and charger into a briefcase along with a phone and I get my rugged laptop. If I want a faster CPU, I will not have to replace the expensive components - the LCD, throw away Windows licence and the battery.

* Two of those tasks need megabytes of javascript to make credit card numbers available to crackers.

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Re: bodging the PC market

The reality is the market has split into consumer and power-user. Consumer computing - which includes most office computing - is a solved problem. While there was a GHz war there was plenty of upgrade momentum.

Once the technology stopped changing much, the momentum died. Then tablets happened, and that was that.

Power-users are too niche to drive development on its own. The media creation and gamer markets are tiny compared to the consumer market. So the commercial return on Moar Powerz is always going to be very small, and not economic - which is a shame for those of us who could get real use out of a 64 core 10GHz PC.

Also, hardly anyone has spare cash, which doesn't help at all.

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Windows

It's early yet

As we come to the end of the year it's likely the pace of change will continue to accelerate. That means by March the news should be right horrific for PC makers on actual "PC" units for this year. But that's OK, because they'll all be making tablets as fast as they can. Right?

PC makers have been killing each other on margin for a long time, hoping to gain dominance and "win" the right to charge a premium price. Well, here we are at the end. "Bob, tell them what they've won!"

7" tablets have come under $100 for the quad core, Android 4.1 version. Remember that "$100 laptop" thing that was going to revolutionize education? It's here. Now.

We can go back to PC buying once everybody has a nice new tablet. Or three. Or not.

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Anonymous Coward

There will always be a market for powerful PCs

Serious gamers, graphic designers, architects, etc. will not be able to make do with a tablet, or even a laptop.

What we are seeing is the demise of the less powerful PC. This will possibly impact economies of scale, and drive up prices for the remaining PCs. Also, it will no longer be reasonable to assume that all devices are using a single, backwards compatible OS. This could boost cloud computing, and centralised* software as a service. The winners may be providers of software subscriptions that are portable across a wide range of different machines and operating systems - something that Microsoft is unlikely to provide.

Maybe Google was right to invest in the Chromebook.

*Why am I seeing a wiggly red line under centralised? I thought The Register was a UK publication.

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Re: There will always be a market for powerful PCs

I'm not so sure about gamers — it could go either way. Without a middle tier of people that don't care if they play at 20fps with low-quality textures to pump up the sales, there's just not all that large of a market. So then what are people going to buy the high-end computers for? It'll become an ever shrinking niche.

Another way round of phrasing it: 90% of games are going to be developed for tablets and similar devices. Those games are not going to scale well. So why bother spending the money to try?

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centralised

apt-get install wbritish-large

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Anonymous Coward

@ThomH (Re: There will always be a market for powerful PCs)

If 90% of games sell for $2, and 10% of games sell for $60, which market would you rather be in? The one with huge competition and tiny margins, or the one with much lower competition and healthy margins? Of course, the price of entry to the $60 market is a huge design team, but the market consists of consoles and PCs (which unlike tablets have enough grunt to run the $60 games), and is still quite large. The fact that porting between PS4, XBox One and PC will be much easier thanks to the similarity of hardware doesn't hurt, either.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @ThomH (There will always be a market for powerful PCs)

Will be interesting to see what the Indie situation is for PC/XBO/PS4 we can expect Unity3D etc. portability so down to Microsoft and Sony. If Microsoft have any corporate sense they'll announce easy access to XBO store to developers at Build in June its such an obvious card to play against Sony; not holding breath if the shower responsible for Windows 8 marketing are let anywhere near.

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Re: centralised

"apt-get install wbritish-large"

Thanks for the pointer, Flocke. This had been bugging me (I use Opera,) and couldn't see a spelling option in the menus so never really bothered to look further. In Opera you right-click on an input field and go into "Dictionaries", if it's of any further help to anyone.

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Windows

The PC market is evolving not dieing.

Miniaturization and increased portability are attractive right now. Huge supercomputer powered towers are old news to a population who live, shop, play and bitch online. Manufacturers are following the trends of lower cost, lower powered, longer battery life mobile tech because it is what folks want. Gamers will buy consoles or huge liquid cooled rigs, the rest of the domestic market just need a sofa surfer that fits in their handbags.

Apple made it easy, Android made it cheap, M$ made it torture to use on a non touch device or even worse a vertical touch screen.

The current PC component based hardware players need to run with the trend or become niche market for big business workstations/servers or sweaty gamer basements, everyone else is taking their tablet to the beach.....

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It's the Apple on Steve Ballmer's head.

It's not so much that Joe Public rejects the PC, more that they have been convinced (to quote one of my young neighbours) that "it's all about Apple, now".

In fact, of five neighbours, only myself and one other are still using Windows -- two having switched to Apple laptops since Xmas.

Among us three have iPhones ( the remainder BB, and Nokia) and there are two iPads.

In short, the dominating manufacturer is Apple.

But, I also suspect that (based on a friend's experience of buying a new Win8 laptop) word of mouth about its shortcomings is, at least, delaying some users from upgrading to a new PC.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's the Apple on Steve Ballmer's head.

MacBook sales are down so your neighbours are unusual. In fact two households out of five buying new PCs in five months is incredibly atypical. All my neighbours use 2-6 year old laptops including both doctors and the barrister! All are interested in the new Windows hybrids now novelty of iPad is wearing off.

In short, Apples dominating days may soon be behind it if more people who can afford it can be persuaded to upgrade their old laptops.

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I'm doing my best

I've just bought a new machine. Not that my old one is worn out, or obsolete.The machine will replace one of Asus's netbooks. An EeePC 1008HA, arguably the prettiest thing they ever brought out. I've only bought the new one, an Asus 1225B because Asus say that they're no longer going to make the netbook model, and It was about the very last opportunity to buy a machine which DID NOT have Windows 8 on it. Not that I use the windows bit much, since I'm a long time Linux user. But Win is useful for the odd application where Linux doesn't have the equivalent. So, next year may be a poor year too, with Win 8 the only alternative. Has wnyone a good word for Win 8. I certainly have not heard one.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I'm doing my best

Windows 8 has good and bad points like most products. Many people with considerable experience in the PC industry see it as a good improvement over Windows 7 on balance though you might not realize it if you go by reading some of the piss poor reporting by the click bait news sites and the uninformed and ignorant comments on forums whenever Win8 is mentioned. I shouldn't worry its all a storm in teaspoon.

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Gaming PCs

This may be a forlorn hope, but I am quite optimistic about the future of PC gaming. Some of the manufacturers might do well if they consider teaming up with Valve and Nvidia to produce a kick ass Steam box. It won't be hard to design something better than the Xbone.

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Re: Gaming PCs

The problem with standards is that you are left with few options to compete. Namely:

-Price (problem here)

-Quality (not so evident, but certainly increases price)

-Store presence. Expensive and can also increase costs.

Branding is difficult if you sell a commodity... possible, but difficult.

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Go

Obvious

This was a long time coming... General purpose computers have simply never been suitable for the average consumer, they are designed for geeks and are far too complex and with far too many things to go wrong for the average user.

The idea that typical users are able to maintain and use a system as complex and opaque as windows is ridiculous, and linux distributions although better in that regard were never marketed properly.

Tablets in their current form take away that hassle, plus they are cheap and affordable in a time when people are tightening their belts.

Despite what the anti linux crowd have been saying for years, a central repository where you can select and trivially install software is EXACTLY what users want and need. The idea that users would buy software in a box from a store, or that they're in any way clued up enough to safely download and execute binaries from arbitrary websites is ridiculous.

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Re: Obvious

Spot on, though you missed explicitly pointing out that general consumers would equate a PC/laptop with windows and a tablet with something that just works.

I don't think there's any perception that a cheap no-hassle laptop or PC is possible. (If you want that you pay £1000 for a mac).

I think Windows is dead in the water, unless Microsoft bring out a replacement for Windows 8 which looks and works like 95 - 7 on the PCs that are already out there, and doesn't cost too much to upgrade to. Otherwise people will stick to the systems they have (with the lucky ones being upgraded to Linux Mint by friends in the know.)

However at $10 a unit royalties, they won't be totally heart broken at Android taking their market. (Just like the bulk of Nokia's smartphone market going to Android in stead of WinPho wouldn't bother their accountants.)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Obvious

Microsoft aren't entirely stupid it was the fatuous lawsuits in the 90s that stopped then releasing an online Windows store ten years ago. Why Amazon didn't step in is a mystery to me.

Tablets and phones are great for what they do but majority of households continue to need PC type devices. This may start to change when hybrids get out there so more people can see how much more useful they are that device like iPad 4 (not carping love the clear iPad 4 display, just look forward to the day I get that function and a notebook on one device - come on Apple admit you were wrong and just do it).

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Stop

Semantics

The PC market is doing just fine, desktops and laptop sales are down, smartphone and tablet sales are up, won't be long until tablets are recognised as PC's (personal computer for those that have forgotten), and all will be right again. At least until the next evolution of the PC comes along and once again is excluded from the definition. Are hosted virtual computers included yet? because they will be later.

Some people need Desktops, some people need laptops, others get by with a phone and/or tablet, some need whole rooms filled with servers, others prefer virtualised PC's, some just need a browser. A percentage of the market will always prefer something that doesn't exist yet and will switch from one of the above when it arrives.

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Pint

Tally-ho

Fascinated as to why there is surprise or or in some cases, major denial (usual suspects). What has driven lower prices and the demise of traditional ICT product has been a rapid surge in technology and its delivery coupled with an almost insatiable and savvy consumer demand. Add a traditional manufacturing sector with its head in the sand, increased competition and there you have it...no real need for complex or scientific explanations......

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Meh

I think it's a complex and lethal combination of factors.

There is no one specific culprit if you ask me, so I am going to combine the best bits of other people's posts to create my own. For me the main one is that we are reaching a saturation point where everyone that wants/needs a computer has one. People no longer get a new one until their old one breaks.

The economic downturn hasn't helped so now because of belt-tightening and less disposable income we simply cannot justify that impulse purchase any more when our existing device stil works OK.

Also the technology has peaked - we how have powerful, fast multi-core processors, loads of RAM and large hard drives. Most come computers and laptops are way too highly specced when you consider their main use. I know plenty of people with powerful graphics capability in their PC or laptop and yet they don't play a single game. So may people browsing pr0n and watching kitteh videoz on multi-core powerhouses.

Then we have the tablet effect - a lot of non-technical users are so happy not to get into the nuts and bolts of the hardware and the OS; they just press the button and it works just like the TV and the microwave. Once they have a tablet they realise it's all they ever really needed and they won't go back to a PC, even if it has nice simple colourful squares of stuff on the main screen. It takes about 5 seconds to realise that it's the same old Windows underneath, with drivers, patches, BSODs etc etc.

Finally we have new versions of Windows that don't need a massive hardware upgrade to run. No longer a compelling need to replace or upgrade when a new OS comes out.

Until we the next big technology jump (and who knows what that might be..... the wearable computer?) things are in stasis because of the above factors.

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