PC shipments in 2013 dropped precipitously -- and the future's murky

Though Gartner's and IDC's predictions collided with cold, hard reality in 2013, they're oddly optimistic about PCs in 2014

A year ago, Gartner and IDC predicted 2013 would be a lackluster but tolerable year for PC shipments. In March, IDC adjusted its forecast to say that total PC shipments would fall 1.3 percent from 2012. In April, Gartner said total shipments of "traditional" PCs would decline 7.6 percent from 2012. That same month, Gartner created a new class called "ultramobiles" (tablets, hybrids, and clamshells) and said if you combined traditional PCs and ultramobiles, there would be a decline in shipments of 3.5 percent year-over-year.

The numbers are now in, and Gartner says worldwide PC shipments in 2013 dropped 10 percent year-to-year; IDC concurs that worldwide PC shipments dropped 10 percent year-to-year. Need I mention that I predicted a double-digit decline back in March? Nice to see IDC and Gartner have finally caught up with reality.

Or have they?

From the just-released Gartner report, we get this drivel:

Holiday sales of technology products were strong in the U.S. market, but consumer spending during the holidays did not come back to PCs as tablets were one of the hottest holiday items. ... We think that the U.S. PC market has bottomed out. A variety of new form factors, such as hybrid notebooks, drew holiday shoppers' attention, but the market size was very small at the time. Lowering the price point of thin and light products started encouraging the PC replacement and potentially some PC growth in 2014.

In the newly released IDC report, we're told the following:

The PC market again came in very close to expectations, but unfortunately failed to significantly change the trajectory of growth. ... Total shipments have now declined for seven consecutive quarters, and even the holiday shopping season was unable to inspire a turn in consumer spending. Although U.S. growth slipped a little in the fourth quarter, other regions all improved, reinforcing our view that growth rates will continue to improve gradually during 2014 despite remaining in negative territory.

Very close to expectations? Certainly not IDC's expectations a year ago.

I think they're all both wet. Again. Unless there's some huge change afoot -- which seems increasingly unlikely -- I'd be willing to bet that PC shipments will fall another 10 percent in 2014, compared to 2013. There's very, very little wind left in the sails.

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