Sorry, Apple fanboys and Android fanatics: The PC is back, whether you like it or not. The last weeks have given us a series of data points strongly indicating that sales of Windows PC have bottomed out after several years of steep declines and the platform is hardly moribund. As much as you'd like to believe that the Chromebook is gobbling serious market share -- it isn't.
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Consider the evidence:
- On Tuesday, Intel reported surprisingly strong earnings for the last quarter, and it's noteworthy that revenue for its PC group was $8.7 billion, up 6 percent over last year.
- Worldwide PC shipments totaled 74.4 million units in the second quarter of 2014, a year-on-year decline of 1.7 percent, IDC reported last week. That's the smallest decline in two years. The quarter's shipments in the United States alone totaled more than 16.6 million, hardly a dead market. Sales of Windows laptops hit 31.2 million worldwide in the first three months of the year. Meanwhile, Apple sold just 3.2 million Macs worldwide, according to IDC.
- Total shipments of Chromebooks in the last five months amounted to about 800,000 units, according to NPD Group analyst Stephen Baker. Yes, that's strong growth for the Google platform, but it hardly represents a major force in the market as many bloggers try to twist NPD's data to claim.
Evidence like this has never stopped the Wintel haters from tweeting its obituary.
The ugly truth about the Chromebook sales
Every time NPD releases numbers about Chromebook sales, the digerati get excited and link it to the imminent demise of the PC. That's largely based on their unfortunate habit of bending facts to support preconceived notions and a refusal to understand what the sales figures from NPD actually mean.
Baker, the NPD analyst who follows that segment of the market, reports sales in the commercial distribution channel: resellers that largely sell to business. They do not reflect sales to consumers, so the channel represents a small slice of the entire market for PCs or whatever you want to call them. But many outlets on the Web misreport the Chromebook percentages for that one reseller channel as applying to the entire PC market, which NPD clearly says they do not.
Here's what Baker reported this week: "Chromebook sales within the U.S. commercial channel increased 250 percent year-over-year and accounted for 35 percent of all channel notebooks sales." He went on to say, "For the three weeks ending June 7, Chromebook sales made up more than 40 percent of Commercial Channel notebook sales, a significant bump from the 35 percent year-to-date."
Right: 35 percent of all reseller channel notebook sales -- not all sales, just reseller channel sales.
That's not to say Chromebook sales haven't increased. They obviously have, and in some areas the platform appears to be finding a niche. Baker tells me that Chomebooks are selling well in the education market. By that he means resellers' sales to institutions, not to parents or students making back-to-school purchases -- again, a significant difference.