PC sales in reverse gear, slumping to lowest level in a decade

HP Spectre x360

Another round of figures on PC shipments have been released, and following the strong trend of late, there's more bad news for computer manufacturers.

In fact, Gartner's figures for the first quarter of 2016 show a 9.6% drop compared to Q1 of 2015, with total shipments falling to 64.8 million units. That marks the sixth straight quarter in which the analyst firm has observed a decline.

Perhaps the most worrying point of all is the fact that the last time PC shipment numbers dropped below 65 million units was in 2007 – nearly a decade ago now. That's a hell of a long time in the fast-moving world of tech.

Scary slump

So why the major slump? Folks simply aren't replacing their PCs as fast as they used to, with the upgrade cycle lengthening, helped by the fact that hardware is more resilient against becoming obsolete these days. Smartphones have become the priority for people spending their cash on upgrades, too, rather than PCs.

In a broader sense, global economic turbulence has continued to prove problematic, as have unfavourable currency fluctuations.

Gartner also noted that when it comes to the business world, organisations are still testing the waters and formulating upgrade programs, and have not yet started the move to Windows 10. This is expected to happen towards the end of this year, and companies upgrading could also be refreshing their hardware which might help to drive sales.

Right now, though, Windows 10 isn't making much of an impact, and indeed as we've previously discussed it could be a drag factor – because those who have upgraded to Microsoft's newest OS are getting a 'new computer' experience, as it were, without actually having to buy a new PC.

Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner, observed: "Vendors that had a strong consumer focus struggled to increase sell in shipments. There was no particular motivation for US consumers to purchase PCs in the first quarter of 2016. There have been increased sales of two-in-one PCs, but not enough to offset the decline in desktop and traditional notebook sales."

The theme of convertible PCs doing better is again a repeated one, and 2-in-1 devices are expected to make good progress over the course of 2016.

Some stability

When it came to the UK, there was some slightly more heartening news as Gartner said that "consumer demand remained stable" as it did in Germany, despite European PC shipments falling 10% year-on-year in total, with EMEA shipment numbers falling to 19.5 million units.

There were another couple of bright spots aside from convertible PCs, and once again one of them was Apple's Mac computers, which managed year-on-year growth of 1% to reach 4.6 million units shipped. Asus also grew 1.5% to hit 5.4 million units, and these two companies were in fourth and fifth place when it came to the top PC vendors.

Lenovo remains top dog with a 19.3% market share, despite its shipment numbers seeing a major drop of 7.2% compared to Q1 2015. HP and Dell are in second and third place respectively.

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).