PCs are making a comeback in Europe and the US, analysts say

Maybe it’s too early to write off the PC just yet. A year ago, the PC market was a clear horror show, with shipments plummeting as consumers embraced the convenience of tablets. Then tablet sales slowed – they’re still expected to outstrip sales of PCs in 2015, but the latest figures from Gartner suggest that PC shipments are actually doing quite well again, at least in developed markets.

On Thursday, the analyst firm said PC shipments totaled 79.4 million units in the third quarter of this year, 0.5 percent down on the same quarter of 2013. However, that decline was down to the emerging markets — in Western Europe and North America, shipments were up 9 percent and 4.2 percent respectively (that’s the third consecutive quarter of growth in the U.S., by the way).

It’s worth noting that we’re talking about x86-based PCs here, including x86-based tablets running Windows 8, but not including other tablets or Chromebooks. Also, shipments aren’t sales, though they are a good indicator of popularity.

Here’s how Gartner principal analyst Mikako Kitagawa sees it, as quoted in the statement:

Positive results in Western Europe and North America can be a sign of gradual recovery for the PC industry.

Consumers’ attention is slowly going back to PC purchases as tablet adoption peaked with mainstream consumers. The transition from PCs to tablets has faded as tablet penetration has reached the 40-50 per cent range. In contrast, weakness in the emerging market reflects the saturation in selected consumer segments where they can afford PCs. In the meantime, consumers who don’t have PCs will likely buy low priced tablets. This is a one of the major reasons for the slow growth in PC shipments in emerging markets.

Gartner cited a variety of reasons for the comeback in mature markets, ranging from the introduction of more affordable touch-based laptops to the end of support for Windows XP, and the resulting need for many businesses to buy new PCs. The analysts also reckon that two-in-one hybrid PCs, which can double as tablets, are tempting some consumers away from buying pure tablets.

It’s important to note that this possible recovery is mainly benefiting the top PC vendors, with the relative small fry continuing to suffer.

[company]Lenovo[/company] is still number one, with a worldwide PC shipments market share of 19.8 percent. Running down the list from there: [company]HP[/company] is close behind with 17.9 percent (and is number one in EMEA and the U.S.), [company]Dell[/company] has 12.8 percent, [company]Acer[/company] has 8.6 percent and [company]Asus[/company] has 7.3 percent. All those firms saw healthy year-to-year growth (Asus more so than the rest, with a 16.9 percent boost), but shipments by vendors in the “others” category dropped 15.5 percent.

That’ll be why this year we’ve seen [company]Sony[/company] sell off its PC business altogether, [company]Samsung[/company] withdraw from the European PC market, and [company]Toshiba[/company] drastically scaled back its consumer PC operations.

Here are Gartner’s charts breaking things down globally, for the U.S., and for EMEA:

Gartner Oct 14 PC shipments