Will PC shipments go down for the first time in over a decade?

With the rise of tablets and smartphones in the last few years, lots of prognosticators have been predicting that the PC industry as we know it is on the decline. Today, the research firm IHS claims that its numbers show that worldwide PC shipments will be down in 2012 compared to 2011.

IHS's press release predicts that 348.7 million PC hardware units will ship worldwide in 2012, down 1.2 percent from 2011, when 352.8 million units were shipped. IHS says that if its numbers are correct, it will be the first time since 2001 that PC shipments will be down. 2001 was when the dot-com boom era went bust.

What happened? IHS, which has previously cut its forcast for sales of "Ultrabook" based PC notebooks in 2012, said that a predicted rebound of PC shipments in the first three quarters of the year did not happen, due in part to lower back-to-school sales of PC products.

Now the attention turn to the current fourth quarter of 2012, and the launch of Windows 8 on October 26th. IHS clearly doesn't feel the launch of Microsoft's next PC OS will be enough to stop the overall decline of 2012 PC shipments, but it says it is optimistic that 2013 will be better for the industry, saying, "... the new ultrabooks and other ultrathin notebook computers remain viable products with the potential to redraw the PC landscape, and the addition of Windows 8 to the mix could prove potent and irresistible to consumers."

Source: IHS | Image via IHS

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Another factor to consider is that even with Moore's law, most multi core PCs even from years ago are still quite functional. At work we support a lot of old multi-processor PCs that still work great with some TLC and do what our clients need them to do. We're talking 5, 6, or 7 year old PCs such as Pentium D processors. With side work that I've done, I see plenty of people spending more and more time on their tablets. However, they all still have PCs in their homes that get regular use.

The story here is the same however, and even older multi-processors are quite ok at doing the PC work that these people need them to do. Additionally, I've done more than a few new PC installations for people that seem to be mostly tablets users when their old PC units have died.

I'm still seeing a mindset that a home should still have a PC in it, whether it be a desktop or a laptop. It's just that the web apps and even desktop apps that people are using don't need the newer tech. Old stuff works just as well for the average user and as such they are waiting longer and longer to replace them while doing all the trivial stuff on their tablets which are now getting replaced sooner and sooner.

zivan56 said,
You can't replace a computer, just try doing C/Java development in a tablet, aint gonna happen...

Indeed, people who actually use computers to do things, be it work, writing, programming whatever else will still need proper PC's. The decline is coming from the fact that people who only use their PC to consume content & play angry birds are now switching over to tablets.

zivan56 said,
You can't replace a computer, just try doing C/Java development in a tablet, aint gonna happen...

I understand that _you_ cant replace a 'real' computer with something else but millions of people have done exactly that and most of them are happier for doing so.

People like cheap things. They'll make do with whatever is cheapest, and, these days, whatever uses least electricity or takes up the least amount of space.

It just shows that millions of people who didn't really need a full computer in the first place, have stopped buying them and buying tablets instead. There's no need to get a PC if all you want is goofing around on Facebook, write emails/chat and watch videos.

Well I am in the market for a new laptop for photo processing. Might even get an ultrabook if can put 16gb of memory in it.

I expect PC shipment volume numbers to decline because people are now buying tablets instead of computers.

People who need a computer will still buy them but many people never needed a computer and are 'upgrading' to say an iPad instead.

that's called laptop hybrid which the display can be pulled or swivelled off the keyboard.

KomaWeiß said,
I rather have a laptop instead.