PC shipments showed record decline in Q4 2015

IDC's data shows record-breaking 10.6 per cent drop, with Apple the only top five manufacturer making significant gains

Global PC shipments dropped again in Q4 2015, and by the biggest margin since market research firm IDC started tracking the data more than 20 years ago.

PC shipments reached 71.9 million units in Q4 of calendar 2015, according to IDC, a record year-on-year drop of 10.6 per cent. Prior to this, the biggest quarterly drop was 9.8 per cent, recorded in 2013. This year was also the first since 2008 in which total shipments came in below 300 million units.

IDC cited a menagerie of contributing factors, including longer PC lifecycles, ongoing competition from smartphones and tablets, and broad economic trends like falling commodity prices and fluctuating international currencies. Indeed, IDC categorises the degree of decline as something of an outlier, evidence of, "the market...taking some time to respond to new OS and hardware configurations - deciding when to upgrade and evaluating slim, convertible, detachable, and touch variations vs. more traditional PCs."

IDC noted that sales of "detachable tablets" are recorded separately, despite the category having more in common with traditional PCs than a standard tablet. Had those sales been added to IDC's Q4 numbers, the decline would have narrowed to 5 per cent.

The table above shows that Apple was the only manufacturer among top five that showed reasonable growth in Q4. In that respect, IDC was in agreement with Gartner, another research firm that published a report on PC shipments.

In other respects, though, the two sets of data were slightly different. Gartner noted that Q4 was the fifth straight quarter of decline for global PC shipments, but it reported a slightly higher 75.7 million units, and a smaller decline of 8.3 per cent. Total shipments for the year were 288.7 million units.

Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa noted that, "holiday sales did not boost the overall PC shipments, hinting at changes to consumers' PC purchase behavior." The decline is expected to slow to 1 per cent in the coming year, largely due to a "soft recovery" in late 2016.

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Latest comments (5)

Alexis Argyriou Level Designer, Dark Stork Studios3 years ago
With the rise of websites like Reddit and PC user being more informed about their machines, I wonder what's the share of people upgrading their computers themselves or with the help of friends. Talking with my Steam friends about this issue, none of them bought a retail PC in years, instead upgrading components after components.
Also, the new cycle of consoles didn't really raised the bar in terms of performance needs for PCs, there's less reasons to update every 2/3 years than before.

VR is definitely gonna change that though.
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Chris Giroux QA Project Lead, Activision Publishing3 years ago
I guess you can blame Windows 10 for running smoothly on 9 years old PC. Anyone with a Core 2 or newer PC can run Windows 10 with minimal investment now (say a 50$ SSD maybe). Given that, it is hard to justify the purchase of a whole system when the OS is so efficient especially if you are going to do no more than MS Word, Facebook and Youtube on your PC.

Note that this is my personal view on the matter. During Q4 2015 I have bought 3 SSD drives and 2 R7 / R9 video cards to update existing PCs at home all of which run Windows 10. One is mainly a homework/facebook machine, one is a multi purpose laptop (DAW, browsing, Steam remote play) and the other a Steam / Xbox One remote play machine.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Chris Giroux on 13th January 2016 4:22pm

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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 3 years ago
The main issue is that people simply don't buy PCs anymore. The main reason why they would buy a desktop was to do email and Internet, which they now do on their phone and tablet. If they need to get work done, then very likely whatever desktop they have in the house will do. Virtual reality is not going to spur people to spend $1500 I want to new computer. The future computers are going to look like the until compute stick, which plugs in the HDMI port of a television and use a wireless keyboard and mouse, or they're going to look like the convertible tablet laptop like surface for people who actually want to get work done. Mind you I'm only talking about your average person for use at home. Of course desktops will continue to be gaming rigs and be used to get serious high-level work done, but they will be uncommon fixtures and your average household. Where I designing a desktop for the home, I would be designing a desktop to run your home they can also do wordprocessing and some like graphics work on your television, and take up no more space than a Mac Mini. It's a video and audio server, does your home automation, your telecommunications like Skype, and can power various tablets and other things around the house serving them with a personal household cloud. That I believe people pay for, or more likely be included as part of a service package from the cable company that includes home security, television, Internet etc.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 3 years ago
Personally, I don't trust a computer outside of what I need one for (gaming). This push to automate everything only means the black hatters out there have your home and info in that home to play with once they figure out how to digitally break in. Granted, a LOT of tech Ive seen at shows is impressive enough to make me want to try it out. But not at any risk a EULA and TOS writes off as nothing you can litigate if (when) something crappy happens.
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 3 years ago
Greg I totally see your concerns, but I want to mission is one of the biggest growing sectors and technology. That's definitely a primary purpose behind the Amazon echo, and definitely was an original intention for the Xbox one's ability to process VoiceCommands while in standby mode.

Many of the cable companies, particularly Comcast of May large investments in the sector, which would make it slightly more secure because such adjustments would only be made on their internal network. Of course user passwords and things could be compromised, but most of the hacking I've seen Has been based around making the Phillips hue do interesting things than cracking it to make the lights go crazy. In order for crackers and harassers to get their moneys worth, it has to be something on very public display. Will such exploits exist? Undoubtedly. Will people, live a normal lives, not putting themselves on twitch and other things where people can watch the chaos live have this happen to them? Not very often
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