IDC Downgrades PC Forecast for 2016

The analysts say that even the declining shipments of smartphones and tablets are doing little to boost the PC market.

Lenovo PC

The already-bleak outlook for PCs this year could become even worse, according to analysts with IDC.

The market research firm on June 9 revised its 2016 outlook for the struggling global PC market, saying the decline in shipments could hit 7.3 percent over last year, about 2 percent lower than original expectations.

In a statement, the IDC analysts pointed to a range of factors that will keep pressure on both consumer and corporate sales, including weak currencies worldwide, depressed commodity prices, political uncertainty and delayed projects. At the same time, trends that would seem to be drivers for PC shipments don't seem to be helping, the analysts said.

For example, growth rates for smartphones and tablets—the key mobile devices that helped start the years-long decline of PC shipments in late 2011—continue to fall, which should reduce some competitive pressure on PCs, they said. However, that hasn't seemed to help PC sales.

Consumers around the world continue to be hit by financial pressures, and there are a number of alternatives, such as delaying replacing a PC by using a free upgrade to Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system or using other devices. Both situations are keeping a lid on the consumer side of the equation, while corporations continue to hold back on buying new PCs, even though many enterprises are evaluating Windows 10.

IDC analysts said that detachable tablets also continue to challenge PCs. Such devices can be used as either tablets or notebooks, and now that the specs and costs of detachable tablets are more in line with notebooks, they're becoming even more attractive to buyers. If detachable tablets are included in the overall PC numbers, the year-over-year decline in shipments for 2016 would be about 2 percent, with small growth coming in the later years, though not coming close to peak shipment numbers.

"The latest update reflects continuing pressure on PC shipments, but does not significantly change the factors driving the market," Loren Loverde, vice president of IDC's Worldwide Tracker Forecasting and PC research. "In addition, we have now had four consecutive quarters of double-digit volume declines. This type of prolonged slump is unprecedented, and lowers the bar for some improvement going forward. Unfortunately, the PC market still faces some persistent challenges, and for now, improvement continues to mean slower declines."

In the first quarter, PC shipments fell 12.5 percent from the same period in 2015, below IDC's forecast of 11.3 percent.

The consumer space is bearing the brunt of the market slowdown, according to Jay Chou, research manager for Worldwide PC Tracker. The consumer segment will see double-digit declines in shipments again this year, and the space will continue to shrink over the next few years. By contrast, the commercial PC space will see shipments decline 4.4 percent this year, with slightly positive growth over the next several years, Chou said.

Other market research firms are seeing the same situation in the PC space. Gartner analysts said shipments in the first quarter declined 9.6 percent, while Canalys analysts put the figure at 13 percent, with the number of PCs shipped dropping to levels not seen since the second quarter of 2011. In addition, the Canalys analysts said there were few bright spots in the future to which PC vendors could look forward.