PC shipments see the steepest decline ever - blame tablets and smartphones

PC shipments worldwide during the first quarter of 2013 totalled 76.3 million, leading to the biggest decline for the market yet, as customers turn their attention (and money) towards smartphones and tablets.

According to the IDC, which has been tracking the PC market since 1994, the PC shipments fell 13.9 per cent compared to the amount sold in the first quarter of 2012. The numbers are worse than the forecasted decline of 7.7 per cent. IDC defines PCs as desktops, portables, mini notebooks, and workstations, but does not include handhelds, x86 servers or tablets.

During the first quarter, HP remained in the lead as the top vendor with 15.7 per cent market share, but posted a 23.7 per cent decline from the same quarter last year. The market followed with Lenovo at 15.3 per cent with zero growth or decline, Dell with a 10.9 per cent decline, Acer with a 31.3 per cent decline, and ASUS rounding out the top five with a 19.2 per cent decline. 

"Although the reduction in shipments was not a surprise, the magnitude of the contraction is both surprising and worrisome," said David Daoud at IDC. "The industry is going through a critical crossroads, and strategic choices will have to be made as to how to compete with the proliferation of alternative devices and remain relevant to the consumer."

The influx of consumers taking their spending away from traditional PCs for other devices is being blamed, but perhaps the bigger blame lies with Microsoft for not creating enough buzz around Windows 8 when it  launched last autumn.

"While some consumers appreciate the new form factors and touch capabilities of Windows 8, the radical changes to the UI, removal of the familiar Start button, and the costs associated with touch have made PCs a less attractive alternative to dedicated tablets and other competitive devices," said Bob O'Donnell at IDC.

Apple, which rounded out the list at sixth, is also feeling some pressure on the PC end as its own iPad took away from market share. 

On the company's Christmas-season earnings call, Apple announced a whopping 47.8 million iPhones and 22.9 million iPads sold. Mac sales set at 4.1 million, compared to 5.2 million in the last quarter - a solid decine. “We established new all-time quarterly records for iPhone and iPad sales, significantly broadened our ecosystem, and generated Apple’s highest quarterly revenue ever,” said Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s CFO.

The new numbers from the IDC signify tough times ahead for companies focused on PCs, but it's not like they haven't seen it coming. They have to focus on new markets which is something the leader, HP, has already noted.

It's worth noting however that the figures don't include tablet sales including a bevy of Windows 8 "convertible" devices like the HP Envy X2 and the Microsoft Surface Pro. 

"Detachable keyboard devices like Surface and Envy X2 are counted in our tablet numbers. Basically, any device that can get to tablet/slate form factor with screen size of 7" < 16". 16" and greater slates are counted in our PC All-in-one category," Ryan Reith, program manager for mobile device trackers at IDC confirmed to Pocket-lint.