Can the PC make a comeback – or is it now irrelevant?

Is the PC dying, moving to a new niche, or ready to rebound?

Cooler Master PC

The humble PC had its heyday in the late nineties and 2000s, but with the advent of smartphones and latterly tablets, the shine has been taken off these corporate workhorses.

According to figures released by Gartner, global PC shipments decreased by 8.3% in the fourth quarter of 2015. For the whole of 2015, PC shipments totalled 288.7 million units, down by 8% on 2014. It would seem that not even the release of Windows 10 has stopped this downward trend.

Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner, noted that this is the fifth consecutive quarterly fall in global PC shipments. Sales have been flaccid for eight years now.

"Holiday sales did not boost the overall PC shipments, hinting at changes to consumers' PC purchase behaviour. On the business side, Windows 10 generally received positive reviews, but as expected, Windows 10 migration was minor in the fourth quarter as many organisations were just starting their testing period," said Kitagawa.

Windows 10: More hindrance than help

It was originally thought that Windows 10, released last year, would help boost sales of new PCs, but that hasn't happened. IDC's figures for PC shipments (it counts the figures in a slightly different way to Gartner) saw shipments fall by 10.3%.

Loren Loverde, vice president of Worldwide Tracker Forecasting and PC research at IDC, said the option to upgrade to the new OS meant that some users were postponing an upgrade "a little, but not indefinitely".

Windows 10
Windows 10 has not helped the PC's cause

"Some consumers will use a free OS upgrade to delay a new PC purchase and test the transition to Windows 10. However, the experience of those customers may serve to highlight what they are missing by stretching the life of an older PC, and we expect they will ultimately purchase a new device," she said.

Niche player

With the figures not looking too good, we have to ask ourselves is the PC dead or is it moving into a new niche?

Darren Grasby, president of EMEA and Global Channel Sales at AMD, says that the proliferation of mobile and tablet devices has, obviously, impacted the PC market, but at nearly 300 million annual unit shipments the PC is "far from dead".

"I believe we will see PCs and laptops playing an important role in the years to come and we are excited about the technologies and products we have planned," he says.

Grasby adds that when you look more closely at the numbers by hardware types and segments, you'll see that there are some bright spots.

VR
Virtual reality will be a big driver in pushing new high-end PCs

"In the next year, we are likely to see increased refresh cycles of PCs and laptops in the commercial space driven by adoption of the Windows 10 operating system. Also, we expect virtual reality to create a strong appetite for more powerful graphics and immersive gaming experiences in the PC space."