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Windows PC Market Very Unlikely to Improve in 2017

The personal computer sector is stuck in a downturn. Worldwide shipments of personal computing devices (PCDs) -- including a combination of desktop, notebook, and workstation PCs, plus slate and detachable tablets -- are forecast to decline from a total of 435 million units in 2016 to 405.2 million units in 2021, according to the latest market study by International Data Corporation (IDC).

This latest forecast represents a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of -1.4 percent. IDC reduced its overall PCD forecast from the previous version by up to 3 percent depending on the year, with the largest reductions coming from the media tablet product categories.

PC Market Development Remains Bleak

Always the optimist, IDC analysts now believe that the troubled market could return to an overall growth trajectory in 2019. Led by a modest recovery in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and Asia-Pacific regions within the first quarter of 2017, the traditional PC market registered its first positive growth since Q1 2012.

Despite the upward improvement, growth was less than 1 percent. Now IDC expects traditional PC shipments to return to a slow decline until positive growth resumes. Desktop volume will continue to decline, while notebook PC volume will likely grow modestly, boosted by the business user market.

"The steady refinement of slim and convertible designs, as well as rising commercial spending are helping stabilize overall traditional PC shipments," said Loren Loverde, vice president at IDC.


Although traditional PC shipments will decline slightly by the end of the forecast, rising replacements and steadier growth in emerging regions will keep commercial growth in positive territory and sustain total annual shipments above 252 million throughout the forecast.

Within the tablet category, the high-level story hasn't changed all that much. The expectation remains that slate tablets will continue to decline at double-digit rates in 2017, with contraction slowing in the later years of the forecast while detachable tablets are expected to continue strong growth.

However, coming off a weaker than expected 2016 for detachable tablets, IDC reduced its overall detachable tablet forecast with the largest reductions coming from the United States and Asia-Pacific (excluding Japan).

According to the IDC assessment, sales of detachable tablets haven't quite met their expectations, and as a result they've reduced volume projections throughout the forecast period.

Outlook for PC Product Category Growth

New detachable tablet products continue to reach the global market, but the reality of this relatively new product category is that Microsoft and Apple control close to 50 percent of the volume and both companies have very cyclical product releases and relatively high price points.

One piece of industry movement that IDC says that they continue to watch closely is OEMs that have traditionally focused on the smartphone space moving further into the Windows device market. This is happening with both detachable tablets and notebook PCs, and as recently as this week Huawei announced very attractive products in both categories.

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