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Market for Personal Computing Devices Remains Soft Overall, But Notebooks Present A Silver Lining, According to IDC

Unit shipments for the global personal computing devices market, comprised of traditional PCs (made up of desktops, notebooks, and workstations) and tablets, is expected to decline 3.9% in 2018, according to the latest forecast from the International Data Corporation (IDCWorldwide Quarterly Personal Computing Device Tracker. This contraction is expected to continue throughout the forecast period as the market further shrinks to 378.3 million units shipped in 2022 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of -1.8%.

The forecast incorporates an updated set of assumptions, which reflect both areas of growth as well as concern. Tablets, once hailed as the biggest threat to notebooks, once again saw disappointing numbers in the third quarter of 2018 and the outlook has been scaled back compared to the previous forecast. More specifically, slate tablets have been in decline since 2015 and are expected to contract over the five-year forecast with a CAGR of -5.8%. Even though the pace of the slate decline has slowed, continued pressure from smartphones, limited innovations, and further increase in slate life cycles are likely to weigh against volume recovery. The forecast for detachable tablets was also adjusted downwards toward a more conservative growth trajectory because of market consolidation and increased challenges to consumer adoption, although IDC sees improvement from some verticals like education and finance. Traditional PCs are also expected to struggle, especially desktops, but there are brighter spots such as gaming, business PC upgrades, and an expanding presence for higher-end notebooks. Notebooks and mobile workstations still command the largest product category volume and its share within total PCD devices are expected to grow the most through 2022. Chrome OS, which is the dominant operating system within the global education notebook market, is expected to make gains in the consumer and business installed base. Improvements in the Windows value proposition also means gains for higher-end systems, such as convertible notebooks filling in markets where detachable tablets have faltered.

"In the short term, the traditional PC market will see some impact from a processor shortage, which is expected to affect lower-end SKUs more significantly," said Jay Chou, research manager, Personal Computing Devices Tracker at IDC. "But with the commercial upgrade heading into its final stretch over the next year or so, we believe that will drive much of the focus and volume, with opportunities across the pricing spectrum."

"In 2018, we've seen the detachable category waver as important product announcements were pushed to the last quarter of the year," said Lauren Guenveur, senior research analyst, Devices & Displays. "For the first time since the form factor's introduction, annual volumes are expected to be down compared to the previous year. However, we expect the market will recover in 2019 as new products from Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, and Google become more readily available." 

Personal Computing Device Forecast, 2018-2022 (shipments in millions)

Product Category

2018 Shipments

2018 Share

2022 Shipments

2022 Share

2018-2022 CAGR

Desktop + DT & Datacenter WS

93.7

23.0%

82.3

21.8%

-3.2%

Notebook + Mobile Workstation

164.1

40.3%

166.6

44.0%

0.4%

Detachable Tablet

20.7

5.1%

28.0

7.4%

7.8%

Slate Tablet

128.5

31.6%

101.4

26.8%

-5.8%

Grand Total

407.0

100.0%

378.3

100.0%

-1.8%

Traditional PC

257.8

63.3%

248.9

65.8%

-0.9%

Traditional PC + Detachable

278.5

68.4%

276.9

73.2%

-0.1%

Total Tablet (Slate + Detachable)

149.2

36.7%

129.4

34.2%

-3.5%

Source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly Personal Computing Device Tracker, December 4, 2018

Traditional PCs include Desktop, Notebook and Workstation form factors.

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