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Worldwide PC shipments totaled 72.6 million units in the fourth quarter of 2016, a 3.7% decline from the fourth quarter of 2015, according to preliminary results by Gartner, Inc. For the year, 2016 PC shipments totaled 269.7 million units, a 6.2% decline from 2015. PC shipments have declined annually since 2012.
"Stagnation in the PC market continued into the fourth quarter of 2016 as holiday sales were generally weak due to the fundamental change in PC buying behavior," said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner. "The broad PC market has been static as technology improvements have not been sufficient to drive real market growth. There have been innovative form factors like 2-in-1s and thin and light notebooks, as well as technology improvements, such as longer battery life. This end of the market has grown fast, led by engaged PC users who put high priority on PCs. However, the market driven by PC enthusiasts is not big enough to drive overall market growth."
"There is the other side of the PC market, where PCs are infrequently used. Consumers in this segment have high dependency on smartphones, so they stretch PC life cycles longer. This side of the market is much bigger than the PC enthusiast segment; thus, steep declines in the infrequent PC user market offset the fast growth of the PC enthusiast market."
Ms. Kitagawa said that although the overall PC market will see stagnation, there are growth opportunities within the market, such as the engaged PC user market, the business market and gaming. However, these growth areas will not prevent the overall decline of the PC market, at least in the next year.
Four of the top six vendors experienced an increase in worldwide PC shipments in the fourth quarter of 2016 (see Table 1). The top three vendors all increased their global market share in the fourth quarter. Lenovo maintained the No. 1 position, as the company experienced shipment increases in North America and EMEA, while Asia/Pacific and Japan continued to be challenging markets.
Preliminary Worldwide PC Vendor Unit Shipment Estimates for 4Q16 (Thousands of Units)
HP remained in the second position, and it has recorded three consecutive quarters of shipment growth. HP secured the top position in PC shipments in the U.S. and EMEA, growing faster than the regional averages.
Dell also registered three consecutive quarters of shipment growth in 4Q16. Dell continued to place PCs as a strategic business segment in commercial and consumer markets during 2016. Asus suffered the steepest decline among the top six vendors in the fourth quarter of 2016. Asus has been shifting its PC strategy more toward the high-end market, which will allow it to maintain better profit margins. Gartner analysts said the falling shipment volume could be the cause of this strategy shift.
In the U.S., PC shipments totaled 16.5 million units in the fourth quarter of 2016, a 1.3% decline from the fourth quarter of 2015 (see Table 2). Five of the top six vendors in the U.S. PC market experienced a shipment increase in the fourth quarter of 2016. However, this was offset by a 20.9% decline in the Others category, and a 48.3% decline in shipments by Asus.
"Similar to low-key back to school sales in 3Q16, big sales events, such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday and holiday sales are no longer effective marketing opportunities for PCs since PC purchases are generally driven by a 'need,' rather than 'want,' motivation," Ms. Kitagawa said. "PCs are not a preferred gift item any longer, as consumers gravitate toward other consumer electronics, such as virtual personal assistant (VPA) speakers, virtual reality (VR) head-mounted devices, and wearables. Vendors and channels did not have high expectations for the holiday PC sales, so the marketing campaigns remained relatively quiet."