Personal computer (PC) vendors have a complex market development challenge in 2015 -- learn how to embrace ongoing demand volatility. Worldwide PC shipments are expected to fall by -4.9 percent in 2015, while growth projections for 2016 and 2017 were raised slightly, according to the latest study by International Data Corporation (IDC).
Fourth quarter 2014 (4Q14) results were 1.7 percent ahead of forecast, but economic and product changes will create more challenges in the short term. Total 2015 volume is projected at 293.1 million PCs, slipping a little further to 291.4 million in 2019.
In value terms, the PC market reached $201 billion in 2014 -- that's a decline of -0.8 percent, and is expected to fall another -6.9 percent in 2015 with potentially smaller declines in subsequent years bringing the total to $175 billion by 2019.
Furthermore, while recent processor updates have generated some positive momentum, more significant product refreshes -- such as Intel Skylake and Microsoft Windows 10 -- will be released later in the year, shifting PC buyer interest to later in 2015.
"Fortunately for PC makers, tablet growth has slowed," said Jay Chou, senior research analyst at IDC. "The PC ecosystem has also begun to see some fruits from efforts to narrow the divide between the PC and mobile devices in terms of both user experience and price points."
Emerging markets continue to struggle, finishing 2014 with a decline of 9.5 percent in PC shipments and with 2015 growth projections lowered to -4.7 percent, pushing volume down throughout the forecast.
Competition from other devices -- such as phones, tablets, and wearable tech -- also pose an ongoing challenge to PC spending. Although emerging regions are still expected to see positive growth by 2017, shipment projections remain below 160 million units through 2019, down from 163.7 million in 2014.
Mature regions continued to fare better, ending 2014 with positive growth of 8.4 percent for the year, the first growth year since 2010. This growth was supported by XP system replacements, slowing tablet purchases, and the availability of more lower-cost PC options.
Nevertheless, PC volumes in mature regions are expected to drop by -5.1 percent in 2015, with more incremental declines to follow. That being said, projections for PC volume in mature regions are up slightly to 134 million in 2019 from the prior forecast of 130 million.
IDC believes that the gains in mature regions for 2014 helped to somewhat stabilize the market, but any opportunity for long-term growth depends on reviving the upside in emerging regions, and that currently seems highly unlikely.