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July 15, 2017

PC sales take a tumble as buyers push back against higher prices

by John_A

Why it matters to you

PC makers need a strong market if they’re going to continue to improve their products, and continued slow sales aren’t helping.

After roughly five years of declining PC sales, things looked ripe for a turnaround. The rate of decline had already started to slow and some analysts previously speculated that PC sales might start to pick up. The slowdown was attributable to the growth of mobile devices, particularly smartphones, while improvements in PC quality promised to stem the tide. However, a 4.3 percent decrease in the second quarter of 2017 has thrown a monkey wrench in that prediction.

The news comes via Gartner, which published its latest report on worldwide PC shipments. The report covers desktop, notebook, and ultramobile premium (think Microsoft Surface) PCs but leaves out Chromebooks and iPads. That means that the continued growth in Google’s Chrome OS platform isn’t accounted for in this report.

Total PC shipments during the second quarter of 2017 totaled 61.1 million units, representing the 4.3 percent year-over-year decrease from 2016 mentioned earlier. That’s the lowest number of PCs shipped in a quarter since 2007 and results in the 11th straight quarterly decrease in a row.


The reasons for this particular decline are potentially less related to PCs being less desired by consumers and more about the recent increases in components costs that have driven up PC prices. DRAM, solid-state disks (SSDs,), and LCD panels have all seen upticks in prices based on a number of supply factors, and that has resulted in some manufacturers passing higher costs on to buyers. Toss in the fact that PCs aren’t becoming obsolete nearly as quickly, allowing consumers to put off purchases more easily, and you have the perfect recipe for poor sales.

If you’re HP, however, and particularly considering the important U.S. market, the news isn’t all bad. HP maintained its top spot in the second quarter and managed a solid 6.5 percent growth in U.S. sales from 2016. That’s likely due at least in part to HP producing some excellent machines, such as the Spectre x360 13, Spectre x360 15, and EliteBook x360 G2 that we’ve rated highly, and in fact ranked among the best mobile PCs money can buy.


Lenovo was a big loser in the quarter, down 16.3 percent in the U.S. and dropping to third place. Dell managed to remain in second place and Apple maintained its fourth place position in U.S. sales despite a 9.6 percent decrease. Asus was the biggest loser in the U.S., dropping a massive 40.7 percent. Worldwide, the results are similar, with the most notable move being HP taking over the top spot from Lenovo.

Going forward, the outlook for PC sales remains guarded. Chromebooks continue to sell well but aren’t yet perceived as a true PC replacement. That could change, and if it does Windows 10 and MacOS would continue to struggle. That’s important to us as consumers because PC manufacturers need the incentive of sales and profits to continue to make the excellent machines we’ve enjoyed over the last several years. So far, the outlook remains a bit gloomy.

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