back to article PC sales still slumping, but more slowly than feared

Analyst firms IDC and Gartner have emitted their quarterly assessments of the personal computer market, with both recording further sales slowdowns but also suggesting things could be worse. Gartner reckons the world consumed 61.1 million machines, down 4.3 per cent from the same quarter in 2016. IDC says combined desktop, …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How much influence did Microsoft have in this?

    Sure, some people liked the Windows 8 and Windows 10 (each to their own is what I say) but trying to put bias aside I think it is fair to say that these two versions weren't exactly popular (Win8) or without controversy (Win10).

    So I can't help wonder how much that helped to drive people away? I know plenty of people who got highly upset over the forced upgrade to Windows 10, some in my direct surroundings didn't even give it much of a (fair?) chance because they got freaked out and started mistrusting it. And there are a lot of people who don't necessarily use the PC for intensive things, mostly e-mail and Internet browsing. Well, that can also be easily done on a tablet and better yet: you don't have to worry about unwanted upgrades.

    When I look at my direct surroundings and those who stopped using Windows then it has all been tablets or Mac. In some cases as a direct result of a (failed) upgrade to Windows 10.

    As such my comment: I can't help think that Microsoft had a big influence in all this.

    1. AMBxx Silver badge

      Re: How much influence did Microsoft have in this?

      Take another look at the stats - Apple's market share has dropped too. Admitedly, Apple's sales are cyclical based around the release of new models, but still surprised to see a drop.

      I think 2 things are happening - not much is changing in workplace software to drive new desktops so they're being used for much longer than in the past. On top of that, there's a move for more use of mobiles for email and browsing.

      Remember when we used to keep the PC in the spare room?

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Re: How much influence did Microsoft have in this?

        A person I know is going to replace her desktop PC, eventually, after almost ten years. She bought a new, larger monitor a few years ago, but is replacing the PC only now because it started to fault.

        She does invoicing and other tasks for her father business.

        The truth is more and more people now replace PCs when they break, not because a new model offer needed features or run needed software an old model can't.

        Offloading tasks to the cloud also means less need to increase local procesisng power.

        On the server side, while cloud companies may be buying a lot of servers, it also means less servers sold to business - and I guess the cloud companies are far better in exploiting each server than the average business - but even the latter will use virtualization to coalesce workloads on fewer ones.

        The industry must adapt to much longer replacement cycles. Or increase planned obsolescence <G>.

        1. Archtech Silver badge

          Re: How much influence did Microsoft have in this?

          Your comment took me back to the world of the 1990s and early 2000s, when I used to buy PC magazines and spent quite a lot of time browsing the various processors, RAM, hard drives, etc., and trying to spec out the "perfect" system.

          I gave such activities up long ago, and not really for lack of time. It just doesn't make sense any more, unless you are a gamer or perfectionist speed freak. As others have pointed out, most compurters nowadays are more than adequate for their intended workloads. Adding an SSD here or some more RAM there often yields the desired improvements, if any.

          But the "core" of the problem (sorry!) lies in the immense complexity and obscurity of today's processors, chipsets and motherboards. It's instructive, when looking at benchmarking sites, to focus on the "single threaded" tables. You'll find that, without spending a king's ransom, you simply aren't going to get anything more than - say - twice as fast as the processor you've had for the past 6-8 years. Even with unlimited money, you can't get anything much faster than that.

          So it's a question of how many cores your workload needs, or can usefully employ. For home users and other light applications, I feel that twin- or quad-core processors are the most anyone needs, and the best value for money.

          There is definitely an "innovation hiatus". Computers aren't really getting faster or better any more, and new form factors like notepads only open up small incremental markets.

      2. TonyJ Silver badge

        Re: How much influence did Microsoft have in this?

        "...I think 2 things are happening - not much is changing in workplace software to drive new desktops so they're being used for much longer than in the past. On top of that, there's a move for more use of mobiles for email and browsing...

        Couldn't agree more.

        In the corp world, more and more back end systems are being ported to have a browser-accessible front end instead of a traditional fat client which also adds up to needing a less powerful day-to-day machine.

        I'm seeing places that feel no need to upgrade their hardware after 5 years let alone 3 any more.

        And in the consumer world, who wants to turn even a laptop on and wait for it to boot, login etc just to browse a bit of web or do a bit of online banking when their phone or tablet is instant / always on and can do just the same job?

      3. This post has been deleted by its author

      4. DougS Silver badge

        @AMBxx - Apple's market share didn't drop, it increased

        You must have been looking at the table El Reg included, which shows Gartner and IDC numbers, both from 2017.

        If you follow the links you see that IDC reckons Apple shipments went up 1.7% YoY, increasing from 6.8 to 7.2% market share. Gartner shows a 0.4% drop in shipments, but as that's less than the overall drop a gain from 6.7% to 6.9% market share.

    2. Nattrash
      Holmes

      Re: How much influence did Microsoft have in this?

      I realise we're all tech focussed, but reading these kind of reports, and noticing the downward trend, over a couple of years now, we also have to take other, not so tech related issues into account. For example, the spectacular growth previously was maybe just a "catchup" effect. There were people out there that didn't have computers/ tech, and we were all buying it. However, the market is saturated now, reached it plateau, and now behaves more like any other market. Furthermore, the new, wow factor is gone for many. I'm sure that many commentards here, in their day job, hear the argument that someone tells them that "they actually don't need a new computer/ device, because their 4/ 6/ 10 year old one seems to work just fine".

      That is why hard and software manufacturers always worked so well together because:

      is it the hardware that makes new software possible, or

      does new software require new hardware?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why would anyone buy a PC with Windows 8 or Windows 10 on it?

    Surely Microsoft has learned from the mobile phone debacle, and the PC slump, that users don't want Metro or universal apps, and actually want a PC that is fast, pretty and functional, not some O/S designed for a 4 inch touchscreen, with flat, 16 colour. Fisher Price blocks all over the screen and animated tiles distracting you for no reason.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Linux

      Why would anyone buy a PC with Windows 8 or Windows 10 on it?

      (deserves a topic)

      Note the article mentions Chromebook's positive affect on new PC purchase stats

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Microsoft learned their lession?

      Are you kidding me. Windows 10 mobile is allive and kicking (according to a recent article here and all the MS fans downvoting any naysayers).

      As for Tiles? They are here to stay like that infernal ribbon.

      Don't worry you soon won't be able to buy a PC without taking out a subscription to Windows and Office in places like PC-World, Best Buy.

      MS are like the people arranging the chairs on the titanic as she sank, doomed I tell ye, doomed (eventually)

      as for me I gave up fighting nanny MS when I retired. Now you'd have to pay me loadsamoney to use Windows 8.0 onwards again.

      1. TonyJ Silver badge

        Re: Microsoft learned their lession?

        "...They are here to stay like that infernal ribbon..."

        You do realise it's been TEN YEARS since MS introduced that infernal ribbon? Time to get over it maybe?

        If you reallllly don't want it, you can always (and yeah you probably do) use Libre Office.

        1. Oh Homer
          Coffee/keyboard

          Re: "that infernal ribbon"

          It's been so long since I've even seen a Windows machine in operation that I've never actually had the chance to experience the wonders of this "ribbon" thing in person, until recently when I encountered this very rare beast (in my workplace, at least) called Windows 10, with some equally modern version of Office (I didn't see a version number anywhere obvious).

          The first thing that struck me about it was when I went to "File" to save a document already opened by a colleague, and was somewhat bemused by the fact that this "menu" expanded to full screen size, which I thought was utterly ridiculous and pointless.

          I assume that was the dreaded "ribbon", yes?

          Whatever it was, it was extremely odd.

  3. Jack of Shadows Silver badge
    Holmes

    Around here, ignoring my two dozen machines, unless something outright dies, we aren't going to replace a machine. There's just no reason to even think about it. Windows 10 has nothing to do with it at all. The last two machines bought both had it and aside from frustration trying to find where things were relocated to by Microsoft (networking, printers, ...), it use the browser and Microsoft Office.

    Now, in my patch of the woods here, you'll not find Windows except on the laptop and that's Windows 8.1U1. And God help you if you should even attempt to fly it as it's a NeXTStart desktop overlay on top. Spend hours figuring where I've got things. Aside from that, it's the tablet (Fusion5 10.6" that I absolutely adore on Android) and the rest can be anything under the Sun depending on what I've got going on in my torture chamber lab. [Currently I'm relocating the GPUPU's to a a dual Xeon.]

    It's not a surprise that people have slowed down on replacing machines until they go to the great bit-bucket in the sky. Toss in what phones and tablets can do offloading some of what a desktop is useful for, and before I forget, our "Smart" TV's [entertainment centers], that's a drop in units shipped no matter what you can say about the market.

    If'n the industry, especially Intel, AMD, NVidia, et al., want to shift more product, well they need to invent a new "Must Have" device class or significantly/radically demand much greater performance out of desktops. We're seeing something of that same shift in servers but not yet approaching significance. However, that market (servers) has seen radical changes in who delivers the hardware to the data-center builders, which kinda reminds me of the desktop market towards the end of growth, don't it? Desktops became just another commodity so who cares what label is one the front.

    Cattle v. Pets. Now let me get back to my pet supercomputer. *Only* 2 TFLOP's;

    1. AMBxx Silver badge
      Facepalm

      trying to find where things were relocated to by Microsoft (networking, printers, ...)

      2 dozen machines and you install printer drivers from the PC? Might want to take a look at using Domain Policy.

      1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

        Re: trying to find where things were relocated to by Microsoft (networking, printers, ...)

        All but one of mine are non-Windows so a GPO is not useful. The other machines live in a work-group which is good enough for what they want their machines to do. I try not to introduce complexity where it's not needed and would need someone with serious experience to pick up the reins.* Horses for courses.

        *- I've a terminal diagnosis. Way back when I wore the uniform, I always set out with succession planning in mind. Here? No one is even slightly interested in acquiring nerd-gastic skills. They have their own passions. As for the lady of the house, a great grandma, she started the very first days at Intel. She working the lab/foundry. So when I start banging on about some technology or another, neither her nor her kid's have a glazed expression. I'm very fortunate that she puts up with me as a boarder.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    MS's New Privacy Dialog Box (for Creator's Update) in 1607 switches data back ON, that was off.

    Where is the UK's ICO on this?

    FFS. I'm really not sure how a forced prominent dialog box that turns options back ON that already have manually been switched off previously somehow passes the ICO/France's National Data Protection Commission, in terms of Data Retention.

    Google's own Privacy Checkup Tool needs an investigation regards it's accessibiity for disabled/partially sighted, I doubt a disabled person could navigate it, to switch off options.

    It's impossible to navigate by such people, it's being designed to be a 'tediious' as possible. 30+ clicks/scroll bar movements (requiring a lot of dexterity)/back buttons to switch off what actually boils down to just 5 switches.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In my neck of the woods

    Plenty of office workers, gamers, photographers, engineers etc want new PCs.

    I give them custom built machines, with higher specs and cheaper than big name brands and they're happy.

    I wonder how many other small outfits like mine are doing the same across the globe?

    I think a more accurate picture of the true trend of desktop/laptop unit sales could be seen by looking at CPU shipment figures perhaps?

    Intel were reporting an 8-9% increase in desktop cpu shipments at a time when the "PC is dead" brigade keep bleating on about declining sales.

    I hate fake news.

    1. Baldrickk Silver badge

      Re: In my neck of the woods

      I've been thinking a similar thing for a while - I only know of one person with a factory desktop - and that's because they wanted an all in one.

      Everyone else I know who owns a desktop put it together themselves, or had someone else do it for them.

      Those who don't want the power to do so, value other attributes, and are on a mixture of laptops and tablets instead.

    2. jason 7

      Re: In my neck of the woods

      In my experience customers don't want new machines. They want cheap machines. That means I pick up reconditioned Dell Core i5 machines with Win10 and 8GB for £200.00 a go.

      I still sell older C2D machines by the dozen to a lot of businesses.

      What do you need to run Office and Chrome? Not a lot.

      I get maybe one custom PC request a year and that's from a gamer.

    3. TonyJ Silver badge

      Re: In my neck of the woods

      You could well be right there. I bought a custom laptop two years ago from PC Specialist in the UK.

      According to a promo vid they had on their site recently, they alone ship around 4,000 units a month. I know this is small fry compared to the big boys out there but that's one custom build just in the UK, so globally it must be big numbers.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    For a vast majority software doesn't offer compelling reasons to upgrade as it doesn't provide any new features and yesteryears PC can still cope pretty well with current software resource demands. The special case is gamers but they always want the latest and fastest, for everybody else what we've got is good enough and we have smartphones.

    I'm glad we're not changing them every five minutes as we used to as it's less landfill and better use of resource, the Planet isn't going to get any bigger.

    1. nkuk

      Even gamers are getting off the endless upgrade cycle. Graphics have plateaued so there isn't a need any more for a new PC/graphics card every few years, plus with an increase in Indie games, and the big budget AAA games being developed as cross platform and generally not pushing the limits of PC's, there isn't a good financial reason to upgrade so often.

      Steam survey stats show the vast, vast, majority of gamers have lower spec PCs than high spec/"modern" PCs.

      1. defiler Silver badge

        "Even gamers are getting off the endless upgrade cycle."

        There's always been a push for *some* gamers to have the latest and greatest, then the majority to have a mid-spec gaming machine, and then the obligatory "long tail", and for the leading edge there's not much point any more.

        But! VR is pushing the hardware requirements further and faster than Chris Roberts ever did. Suddenly you need twice as much, and you probably want it twice as fast.

        There's always something new to push things onwards, even if it's just higher resolution. As for me, I'd like to grab a Vive, but I'll also need to upgrade the whole PC. Short of that, my machine is perfectly adequate for any games I've thrown at it. So, taking my machine as an example, there's a chasm between what's fine on a screen and what's fine on a headset.

        Onwards and upwards!

        1. Captain Obvious

          Re: "Even gamers are getting off the endless upgrade cycle."

          They keep trying with VR - tried it in the past and it flopped - JUST like 3D TV's flopped. Until they take care of motion sickness and bring the price down AND have excellent game support, this will flop as well. Besides, most people have PCIE3 slots and a quick upgrade on the video card will do just fine for VR - so you are talking MAYBE a $200-300 investment and it does NOT sell a PC.

  7. jason 7

    2007?

    Core 2 Duo chips!

    Still perfectly fine for office work even today.

    As mentioned, the software hasn't moved on far enough to warrant better hardware in many many cases.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: 2007?

      "As mentioned, the software hasn't moved on far enough to warrant better hardware in many many cases."

      you guys keep making my favorite points for me. I guess I can go on vacation now.

    2. Jack of Shadows Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: 2007?

      We've a Core 2 Duo, 2 GB RAM, Radeon 8400 and, as a sole concession to modernity, a 160 GB SATA2 SSD. Runs Windows 10, Office, and media center functions very nicely. I'd pat her as I go by but don't want to piss her off.

      1. TonyJ Silver badge

        Re: 2007?

        And that's the other good point - sling a relatively cheap SSD into an older machine and it'll feel brand new again, adding years of longevity.

        1. jason 7

          Re: 2007?

          I remember 10-13 years ago I used to update my CPU every 6 months or so. Since around 2007 its now about every 6 years.

  8. Emmeran

    KMM

    Keyboard, Mouse and Monitor

    That's all anybody really wants a desktop PC for. Laptops fill most of that bill but for serious work most people still prefer two large monitors, a good keyboard and a wireless mouse.

    I, personally, now have to wear reading glasses which makes using a smartphone an annoyance.

  9. Merrill

    Users not interested in new ways to do old stuff

    I've tried to migrate the wife off her 10-year old Win XP machine, but she's not having it.

  10. moiety

    Also, there's more options. A phone and bluetooth keyboard is just as effective for comms as a laptop and will fit in a pocket. Similarly, if you need a low-powered server, then there's Raspberry Pis etc

  11. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "Both analyst firms suggest that rising component prices have led to rising PC prices which has led to falling enthusiasm from buyers, especially consumers. DRAM, LCD panels and solid state disks prices all share some of the blame for the rise, as all are in short supply."

    Maybe both firms replace all their staffs' PCs every year and suppose the rest of the world tries to do the same (the "my use case is universal" fallacy).

  12. Captain Obvious

    Let us look at what the latest is in PC's

    In the budget price range, have I7 with 4 cored/8 HT? Check

    Have USB 3 ports? Check - new standard can be added with expansion card

    Have multiple PCI-E 3.0 slots where video card gets at least X16? Check

    Sata 3 ports? Check - although I do agree the newest PCIE NVME are great, even a Samsung 850 will be fast enough

    Sound? Most motherboards are fine, but furthermore, many wear USB headsets so not an issue.

    Gigabit ethernet? Check

    I used to upgrade all the time as there WAS a compelling reason to go 8088 - 286 - 386 - 486DX - Pentium - Pentium II - Pentium III, etc. Also, AGP - PCIe, etc also were major improvements. The truth is we have stagnated. I no longer upgrade my machines (I build my own), and for server, I buy 2-3 year old servers (used to build my own, but better value used) at rock bottom prices with 32 cores and 192 GB RAM as new performance again is not that exponentially great (unless you spend $20-$30K.

    You will NOT see a major bump until something that really increases the need comes out (NOT VR) such as PCIE 4 (even 5 may come out shortly after 4), or new storage methods, etc. Whatever happened to Hologram storage, fiber CPU's, or quantum computing that was just around the "corner" as those would also be compelling reasons. Heck even a I7-2600 still performs well. This article comes out quite a bit, but the answer remains the same: a saturated market will need a compelling reason to upgrade.

    Now since laptops are not easy to upgrade (with a few exceptions), I can see those being purchased more frequently than a desktop - ie you need to go to faster GPU, 4K touch screen, etc., you need to buy a new laptop,

  13. PhilipN Silver badge

    Blah blah blah ..

    Meanwhile back in the real world the work which MUST be done on a desktop (as opposed to work which could be done on a desktop but which is with relative ease handled on a machine with a different form factor) has shrivelled to a much greater degree than PC sales. Including in the definition of "PC" that few square inches we hold in one hand (stop sniggering at the back) and which is equivalent to the power of a PC very recently total sales have gone up exponentially and will increase.

    Does anyone care about these Olde Worlde statistics apart from the desktop-building dinosaurs who have failed to move on?

  14. jsusanka

    I buy used

    I buy used computers that are in good shape and put Linux on them. I will never give money to any new stores and computers that have windows on them. windows is a piece of shit and should be abolished. If you buy new go buy a mac otherwise buy used and throw linux on it you will be much happier along with a bigger wallet.

  15. lsrusty

    Are You in the Linux or Windows Camp?

    As a result of mainly Marketing Microsoft has dominated the PC/Desktop camp although the first GUI desktop was sold by Apple. But Linux desktops like Ubuntu are fighting back. And don't forget the raspberry pi market which is high in numbers but low in cost.

    We now have a shifting marketplace where PC desktops and laptops are shifting to Laptops and tablets and smartphones. Apart from Windows operating systems most are Linux-based - either Android or iOS. Raspbian on the Raspberry PI is Linux-based too.

    There is some blurring of lines on usage between tablets and smartphones. The majority of people seem to have phones (mainly smartphones) and laptops. Don't forget the computer gaming market too; new PCs come along which are higher performance than the games consoles and battle it out in the retail markets.

    So the options will continue to evolve and all must be taken account in the statistics. Don't confuse number of active devices with financial market share. Prices of existing technology drift down as new technology hits the high prices. So watch this space!

  16. Tezfair

    Is there a need to upgrade?

    My clients run i3 with Windows 7. These range from around 4 years old to present. The older ones are still up to the job of running general office duties and are not much slower than their modern version. Sure HDD and memory speeds have increased, but for pulling files off a network, the speed is academic.

  17. Selden

    From the Gartner report:

    "The Chromebook market has been growing much faster than the overall PC market. Gartner does not include Chromebook shipments within the overall PC market, but it is moderately impacting the PC market. Worldwide Chromebook shipments grew 38 percent in 2016, while the overall PC market declined 6 percent."

    With Chromebook sales are on fire, it's not unreasonable to assume that they are a significant factor for the reported "PC" sales drop. Add in Chromebooks, and there may be no drop at all.

    I bought a Samsung Chromebook Plus from Best Buy last March, in a promo that offered $50 credit for any "laptop" in working order. I brought in an old Chromebook, and had to argue with the Best Buy salesman, because their database only included Windows laptops.

  18. jason 7

    You can add all the computing power to VR...

    ...that you want. You'll still look a total twat using it.

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