Think we’re moving past the PC? Ask the PC makers

The latest sales numbers for PCs are in, and they are not good. Worldwide PC sales amounted to 86.7 million for the second quarter of 2012, which means they shrank by 0.1 percent compared to a year ago, according to IDC’s latest calculations, published Wednesday. Things were even worse in the U.S., where PC sales were off 10.6 percent from the same quarter a year ago, the least-inspiring showing in a long time for an industry that is very obviously in transition. Even Apple, which has had a remarkable string of Mac sales growth, saw sales dip.

We know tablets are a serious threat to the PC’s dominance, but even the people who watch and forecast this industry didn’t entirely see this much damage coming this fast: IDC had predicted 2.1 percent growth for global PC sales for the second quarter and a drop of 6 percent here at home. For worldwide sales, there were two bright spots: both Lenovo and Asus bucked the downward-spiraling sales trend for the quarter. Lenovo saw sales rise more than 25 percent worldwide, and Asus almost 40 percent. And HP better watch out: Long the largest PC maker in the world, its market share for Q2 came in at 15.5 percent, while Lenovo is sneaking up behind at 14.9 percent.

Apple has been able to show significant growth in its Mac sales extending back several quarters, so it seems out of character for its U.S. sales to be off 1.1 percent from a year ago. (IDC didn’t report Apple’s worldwide sales numbers for the quarter, though we’ll find out on July 24 when the company reports its earnings.) Despite the drop-off, its market share in the U.S. did inch up a bit from 10.3 percent last quarter to 11.4 percent this quarter.

So what was it that went wrong for laptop and desktop makers last quarter? There’s a lot of waiting going on.

People are delaying purchases of laptops because an iPad or Android tablet is a cheaper upgrade and current owners tend to find they’re usually good enough for their most basic computing tasks. This has been hurting PC makers, and the pain will continue if the iPad, which has racked up 67.1 million unit sales in the last two years, really does see legitimate tablet competition in the form of the Microsoft Surface and the Google Nexus 7 this year. Apple has been up front about the fact that the iPad has been hurting Mac sales as well.

Businesses and individual consumers have been waiting for Windows 8 to drop later this fall and many for new MacBooks from Apple as well, which didn’t materialize until late last month. Some Macs, like the Pro and the iMac are still awaiting proper updates too.

Another thing PC manufacturers are still waiting for? The ultrabook play to actually result in significant sales. According to IDC, “Ultrabooks have not yet produced a significant rise in volumes – in part due to anticipation of improvements such as Windows 8 expected later this year, but also due to pricing.”

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