Analysts agree: Things aren’t looking good for the PC industry.
Reports issued this week by IDC and Gartner both indicate that PC sales have now declined for eight straight quarters. Gartner calls it “the longest duration of decline in the history of the PC industry.”
Overall, the two analyst firms say that there were around 68 million PCs sold in the third quarter of 2016. IDC says that’s a 3.9% dip from the same time last year; Gartner says it’s down 5.7%. Either way, bad news.
It’s especially bad for Apple, which continues to see its PC market share shrink much faster than that industry average — Gartner says Apple shipments dropped 13.4%, giving it 7.2% overall market share. The only other single PC manufacturer that did worse was Acer, where shipments dropped 14.1%, leaving it at 6.7% market share overall.
There’s one big thing working against Apple: The world is eagerly awaiting a rumoured major upgrade to the Macbook Pro and Macbook Air laptop lines that are said to be releasing as early as this October. Most Apple fans are waiting for those machines to drop before they invest in a new laptop.
Apple hasn’t updated its line of MacBook Pros or MacBook Airs since last spring, over a year ago. And neither model has had a full redesign in years. The last time the physical look of Apple’s popular MacBook Air changed was six years ago, in 2010. The MacBook Pro has looked the same since 2012.
Historically, Apple’s PC sales have outperformed the rest of the market. These numbers suggest that might no longer be the case.
Another factor that may have hurt Apple’s performance was a weaker overall back-to-school season for PCs. Parents are handing perfectly good old machines down to their kids, rather than going out and spending a lot on a shiny new model. And kids don’t mind so much, since they’re mainly using smartphones and tablets anyway.
That said, back-to-school was good for Google, whose cheap internet-focused Chromebook laptops “had another banner quarter in the K-12 market,” says IDC, though it doesn’t provide specific figures. Gartner says Chromebooks “exceeded PC shipment growth,” though it also doesn’t break out those specifics.
In general, Gartner says, people are upgrading their laptops more slowly than ever before, since they’re mostly using their phones anyway.
In the short term, then, Apple really needs to release its new Macbooks and reclaim some market share. But in the long term, people aren’t upgrading their PCs nearly as often, as the focus shifts to the touch screen. That’s going to be a tough challenge for the Mac in the years ahead.
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