Despite the growing availability of Intel Skylake microprocessors, the arrival of virtual reality gaming, and Nvidia 10-series graphics cards worldwide PC sales still fell in the run-up to Christmas in 2016, according to data from both Gartner and IDC.
Total sales fell by 3.7 per cent to 72.6 million units in the fourth quarter, capping the fifth consecutive year of falling PC sales, according to Gartner. IDC, meanwhile, suggested that PC sales had declined by a more modest 1.5 per cent to 70.2 million units.
Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner, suggested that this continuing decline is due to a fundamental change in PC buying behaviour. "The broad PC market has been static as technology improvements have not been sufficient to drive real market growth," said Kitagawa.
She continued: "There have been innovative form factors like 2-in-1s and thin and light notebooks, as well as technology improvements, such as longer battery life. This end of the market has grown fast, led by engaged PC users who put high priority on PCs. However, the market driven by PC enthusiasts is not big enough to drive overall market growth."
Infrequent users of PCs, she added, are more likely to resort to a smartphone for applications that ten years ago they might have used a PC for. As a result, the market will continue to decline in 2017 despite growth in sales among enthusiasts, gamers and in the business sector.
Despite the overall decline in the market in the fourth quarter, the top-three vendors increased their sales and market share, particularly at the expense of second-tier vendors.
Lenovo remained the world's biggest PC and laptop maker, with a market share of 21.7 per cent in the fourth quarter and shipments up 1.6 per cent to 15.8 million. HP and Dell took second and third place respectively, with market shares of 20.4 per cent and 14.8 per cent.
Both Asus and Acer experienced falling sales and market share as they looked to improve slim profit margins and to target the higher end, while Apple rebounded modestly following the long-overdue launch of new MacBooks, with unit shipments increasing 2.4 per cent to 5.4 million in the fourth quarter.
Globally, sales in 2016 were down by 6.2 per cent to 269.7 million unit shipments. Lenovo, HP and Dell maintained their respective top-three positions, while Asus, Apple and Acer saw unit shipments decline by 2.6 per cent, 8.7 per cent and 9.9 per cent respectively.
The one bright spot over the year was a modest uptick in sales of business PCs due to Windows 10 migrations. Gartner claims that one-in-three businesses in Western Europe have started their Windows 10 deployments.
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