PC Sales Decline; Mobile Devices Largely To Blame


Credit: Tom Krazit

If you eagerly awaited the arrival of your iPad 2 but decided to nurse that old PC along for a while longer, you’re not alone: fewer people are buying PCs these days compared to a year ago, according to IDC.

In the first quarter PC vendors shipped 80 million PCs, down from 83 million in the first quarter of 2010. It was a rough quarter in several parts of the world, such as the Middle East and Japan, but the decline was especially pronounced in the U.S., where vendors shipped 10 percent fewer PCs as compared to last year. The reason? Tablets.

“‘Good-enough computing’ has become a firm reality, exemplified first by Mini Notebooks and now Media Tablets,” said Jay Chou, an analyst with IDC, in a press release highlighting the numbers. “Macroeconomic forces can explain some of the ebb and flow of the PC business, but the real question PC vendors have to think hard about is how to enable a compelling user experience that can justify spending on the added horsepower.”

Tablets and smartphones have thoroughly exposed what many veteran followers of the PC market already knew: the average person doesn’t use all that much of the computing power that a modern PC can provide. After years of being trained to upgrade their PC every few years to be able to run new programs, those people are realizing that they can do an awful lot of what they used to do on their PC on their smartphones or tablets. The most compelling experiences in computing these days are being delivered over the Web, not through boxed software, and most mobile devices are indeed “good-enough” to satisfy that demand.

Acer, which just fired its CEO, had by far the worst quarter, shipping 16 percent fewer PCs worldwide and a staggering 42 percent fewer PCs in the U.S. compared to a year ago. That suggests that the “mini notebook” referenced by Chou–and a big part of Acer’s product line–isn’t exactly holding its own either. IDC includes mini notebooks, or netbooks, in its market share figures but does not include tablets or smartphones.

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