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Worldwide PC hardware sales shrink again as tablet shift continues

Lenovo remains #1 manufacturer as market dips 8.6%

A study from research firm Gartner has claimed that the worldwide PC market is continuing to decline, shrinking another 8.6 per cent year on year in the last quarter as the public shifts more and more to the use of tablets and smartphones for everyday computing needs.

80.3 million PCs were shipped globally in Q3, 2013, according to the study, less than any other comparable quarter since 2008. Usually, the period is associated with a sales spike, as parents and students purchase new laptops and home machines in preparation for a return to schools, colleges and universities, but Gartner's research shows that iOS and Android tablets are rapidly taking over as the go-to device for connected studying.

"Consumers' shift from PCs to tablets for daily content consumption continued to decrease the installed base of PCs both in mature as well as in emerging markets," said Gartner's Mikako Kitagawa of the sixth consecutive market shrinkage. "A greater availability of inexpensive Android tablets attracted first-time consumers in emerging markets, and as supplementary devices in mature markets."

Not all PC suppliers are feeling the pinch just yet, however, with the market coalescing with its biggest suppliers. Lenovo, HP and Dell all saw an increase in unit sales and market share from the same quarter last year, with Lenovo retaining its position as number one global PC retailer. That is in spite of a contraction in its traditional marketplace of Asia - a shift somewhat counterbalanced by a growth in US sales; both for Lenovo specifically and the market in general.

"The positive U.S. results could mean that seasonal strength and channel fill for new product launches in 3Q13 finally overcame the structural decline." Ms. Kitagawa explained. "Even though 3Q13 shipments were compared with artificially weak 2Q13 because of inventory control for the Windows 8 launch at the time, the 3Q13 results imply the U.S. market may have passed the worst declining stage, which started in 2010. The shrinking installed base of PCs has also passed the steepest decline phase because the structural change has progressed fairly quickly. Tablets will continue to impact the PC market, but the U.S. PC market will see a more moderate decrease rather than a steep decline in the next two years."

However, whilst the US is nosing upwards, EMEA territories are in decline, dropping 13.7 per cent of sales. That drop has been attributed, in part, to a new generation of processors and preparation for the launch of Windows 8.1.

"During the third quarter many vendors went through product transitions to Intel's new Haswell and Bay Trail processors, while preparing for the October launch of Windows 8.1," Gartner's Isabelle Durand posits. "These product transitions and the clearing of old inventory that is taking place through the third and fourth quarters of 2013, have played a part in the slowdown of the PC market in EMEA. Many PC vendors also introduced Android tablets as a main part of their portfolios and this initiative drove PC sales downward."

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