Gartner, IDC, PC sales projections, and other fantasies

Gartner says 2Q 2014 PC sales are even with last year, IDC says they're down, and both paint a bleak picture of the road ahead

The two industry heavyweights, Gartner and IDC, have published their figures for PC sales in 2Q 2014. Gartner says that "total" PC shipments during the quarter hit 75.8 million units, basically flat with the comparable level in 2Q 2013. (Gartner includes "Ultramobile Premium" units in its figures, which includes x86 tablets with Windows 8, and apparently MacBook Airs, but not ARM Windows tablets, Chromebooks, Hybrids, Clamshells, or other tablets.) IDC, which doesn't discern between PCs and "Ultramobile Premiums," but does include Chromebooks, says 2Q 2014 shipments stood at 74.4 million units, a 1.7 percent decline from the year-ago quarter.

In the United States, IDC says shipments increased 6.9 percent, and Gartner (again, incluing "Ultramobile Premium" units) says they were up 7.4 percent, in comparable quarters.

Both companies say the losses this year aren't as bad as last year because of companies replacing Windows XP computers. IDC additionally credits an upswing in Chromebook sales.

With more than half a year of shipment records to look at, the outlook for all of 2014 is hardly settled. Gartner says that if you exclude "Ultramobile Premium" devices, 2014 will see 276 million units out the door, a decline of 6.7 percent. If you include "Ultramobile Premium," the decline is only 2.9 percent -- only. IDC won't make a commitment, except to say that its May projection of a decline of 6 percent in the market "could get closer to flat." That's a sorry state of affairs for those of us who live in a PC world.

Bottom line: PC shipments in 2013 hit the skids to the tune of a drop of 10 percent or more, depending on what you count (or don't). Shipments in 2014 are projected to decline 3 to 7 percent. I'd be willing to bet that (again, depending on what you count), the actual decline will be even greater. As for the years beyond, hey, you only need to swap out those XP machines once. Maybe Windows 9 will bring a blip.

To look at it a different way, back in September 2012, Steve Ballmer told developers that Windows 8 would be running on 400 million devices within a year. Twenty-two months later, we're expecting at an annual rate of 275 million units, and only a fraction of those run Windows 8. Windows Phone numbers hardly rate as a roundoff error.

If you see a headline that says PC sales are improving, it's wrong. More accurately, the hair-raising, screaming part of the roller-coaster descent has subsided ... for a bit.

And the Gartner predictions that Windows Phone will hit 10 percent of the phone market in 2018? Preston Gralla at Computerworld sets those fantasies to rest.

The Gartner and IDC numbers are full of holes, but the trend is unmistakable. If you haven't yet read the writing on the wall, realize that Gartner now says that 2014 will see 2.4 billion "devices" shipped -- phones, tablets, PCs. Of that number, 13 percent will be running Windows, in one of its incarnations. How times have changed.

This story, "Gartner, IDC, PC sales projections, and other fantasies," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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