With consumers increasingly enamored by tablets and larger-screen smartphones with enhanced processing power, interest in PCs has remained limited, leading to little indication of positive growth beyond replacement of existing systems, according to research firm IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker.
The report projected worldwide PC shipments would fall by 10.1 percent in 2013, slightly below the previous projection of 9.7 percent, and far and away the most severe yearly contraction on record.
The findings suggest what the results of a recent Nielsen survey also indicated—as consumers move towards more portable devices, they have little need to replace an aging PC system.
"Perhaps the chief concern for future PC demand is a lack of reasons to replace an older system," Jay Chou, senior research analyst for Worldwide Quarterly PC Trackers at IDC, said in a statement. "While IDC research finds that the PC still remains the primary computing device–for example, PCs are used more hours per day than tablets or phones–PC usage is nonetheless declining each year as more devices become available."
While the commercial market fared slightly better, dipping just 5 percent compared with the 15 percent drop the consumer market witnessed, the report noted the long-term outlook for the two markets is not significantly different, with a small decline projected for both consumer and commercial segments in 2014 with near flat growth in the longer term.
"Despite industry efforts, PC usage has not moved significantly beyond consumption and productivity tasks to differentiate PCs from other devices," Chou continued. "As a result, PC lifespans continue to increase, thereby limiting market growth."
IDC projected 314.2 million PCs would be sold worldwide in 2013, with that figure falling to 305.1 million by 2017. Desktops and portable PCs are expected to witness more robust growth in emerging markets, compared with mature markets—total PC shipments in emerging markets in 2013 are expected to reach 182.1 million, which will slowly climb to 184.3 million by 2017.
"The emergence of 2-in-1 devices designed to function in both clamshell and slate configurations–many of which will run Windows–along with Windows-based tablets themselves, is expected to provide some new volume for the Windows platform as well as the PC vendors and other parts of the traditional PC ecosystem in coming years," Loren Loverde, vice president of Worldwide Quarterly PC Trackers, said in a statement. "The Windows-based tablet market is expected to grow to 39.3 million units in 2017 from less than 7.5 million in 2013 and less than 1 million in 2011."
Loverde also noted that relative to a PC market size of roughly 300 million units, those Windows tablets would add just a couple percent a year relative to PC growth.
Those Windows devices are projected to account for 10 percent of a combined PC and Windows tablet market by 2016–a percentage which lends credence to the idea of Windows tablets being an important growth segment for the PC ecosystem.