PC Shipments Drop to 2011 Levels, Canalys Analysts Say

The market research firm found that in the first quarter 101 million PCs—which includes tablets—were shipped, a number not seen since Q2 2011.

Lenovo PC

PC vendors won't find much in the way of good news in the latest global market numbers from analysts with Canalys.

The market research firm said in a report May 9 that in the first three months of the year, shipments of PCs worldwide fell 13 percent over the same period in 2015, to 101 million units, dropping to levels not seen since the second quarter of 2011. In addition, given the hit the struggling market took in the first quarter and the multi-year downward trend, analysts with Canalys said there were few, if any, bright spots that PC vendors could hold on to.

Canalys includes desktops, notebooks, two-in-one systems—that can be used as both a traditional notebook and a tablet—and tablets in the PC category. Canalys' findings echo numbers from other analyst firms, including IDC and Gartner, which have found that the contraction in the industry that has been under way for four years is continuing despite the hope that new systems running Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system and powered by Intel's latest 14-nanometer "Skylake" chips would help stall or reverse the decline.

That hasn't happened yet. According to Canalys, Apple continued to be the top vendor in the market, even though shipments for the company fell 17 percent to just more than 14 million units. Lenovo, number two on the list, shipped 25,000 fewer units than Apple and saw its numbers drop by double digits, due in part to weakening sales in China.

Rounding out the top five, HP Inc., Dell and Samsung also saw declines in the number of shipments.

As far as the system categories, shipments in two-in-ones grew more than 13 percent year-over-year. However, all other categories saw declines, with tablets being the hardest hit, dropping 15 percent to fewer than 39 million units.

Things aren't expected to get much better any time soon, according to Tim Coulling, senior analyst with Canalys.

"The tablet boom has faded in the distance and the market is fully mature," Coulling said in a statement. "Global shipments declines are expected to continue unless vendors bring transformational innovation to the market. Apple and Microsoft are propping up shipments in established markets with their detachables, but price points make them less affordable in low-income countries."

Other vendors are hitting the market with less expensive alternatives, he said, but those won't have a significant impact on the numbers, at least in the short term. In addition, "the number of people looking to buy their first PC is at an all-time low and 2016 is likely to bring yet more turmoil to global PC vendors," Coulling said.

Gartner and IDC analysts last month said that in the first quarter, they saw the PC market shrink by 9.6 percent and 11.3 percent, respectively. They noted the toll that tablets and smartphones have taken on the PC market, and also pointed to other factors, including the strong dollar—which means higher prices—and a channel with a larger inventory of aging systems and other upgrade programs in the enterprise taking priority over PC refreshes. In addition, smartphones continue to be the preferred computing devices over PCs, and PC users are holding on longer to their systems. Officials with PC vendors have estimated that there are about 500 million PCs in use today that are four to five years old.

However, some analysts are holding out hope.

"Demand for PCs in the U.S. remains sluggish," Linn Huang, research director for devices and displays at IDC, said in a statement in April. "However, we should be entering a period of reprieve. Peak corporate and education buying seasons have historically started in the second quarter. With some IT buyers thinking about early Windows 10 transitions and with the potential continued ascent of Chromebooks in U.S. K-12, the PC market should experience a modest rebound in the coming months."