The PC industry has been declining for years, but it just hit a big milestone. PC shipments have now declined for 5 years in a row, with between 260 and 270 million machines shipped during 2016 according to Gartner and IDC. Both firms' estimates vary due to how they count convertibles and other form factors, but the overall message is that the market has hit five years of decline.
So what happens to the PC market now? While PC shipments briefly returned to growth in the US earlier this year, neither IDC or Gartner are predicting exactly what will happen to the PC industry. Gartner believes the PC market is stagnated and that “the market driven by PC enthusiasts is not big enough to drive overall market growth.” IDC on the other hand thinks the PC market is stabilizing. "The fourth quarter results reinforce our expectations for market stabilization, and even some recovery," says IDC’s Loren Loverde. “We have a good opportunity for traditional PC growth in commercial markets, while the consumer segment should also improve as it feels less pressure from slowing phone and tablet markets."
It’s hard to imagine that the PC market will return to growth, and certainly not the explosive growth that saw it reach its peak of around 365 million shipments five years ago in 2011. While analysts are cautious about predicting an exact stabilization point for the PC industry, it’s clear that the declines are starting to slow as demand for tablets and smartphones slows down. Lenovo, HP, and Dell will all be hoping that there isn’t a huge technology shift on the horizon that could kick start the PC death spiral again. For now, it looks like the PC is now slowly dying off rather than rushing to its end point of life.