Tag: pc

Mobile PC market in the doldrums

pc-sales-slumpThe mobile PC market has suffered its worst performance in 11 years, according to an IHS report.

Mobile PC shipments worldwide sank 6.9 percent compared to the first three months of the year, marking the first sequential decline since Q2 2002. Traditionally there has been growth in the second quarter, with the exception of 2002 and now, including last year where mobile PCs grabbed a 3.9 percent boost.

But analyst group IHS believes the poor results will spread beyond the second quarter. Taking the first half of 2013 overall, mobile PCs have had the worst performance since 2003 – with a 11.2 percent contraction compared to the same time last year.  This can be compared to a 41.7 percent surge as recently as 2010 to understand where the industry has found itself.

Ultrabooks have failed to woo consumers and, in the midst of global economic crisis, potential buyers are holding off on upgrading, even with price cuts and special offers from manufacturers.

“The mobile PC industry on the whole is struggling to find any momentum for growth as upheavals rock the market,” IHS compute analyst Craig Stice said. “In particular, more nimble devices like media tablets have taken over among consumers given their ease of use and unique form factor”.

IHS noted that innovation in mobile PCs has stagnated and low cost tablets have taken away further market share.

This all fits in nicely with the dominating narrative that the PC is dead, but this will not be the case. Although tablets are a far nicer experience for computing on the go or lazing around at home, it’s rather hard to get an essay done or other work finished on those devices. Instead PC makers will have to adapt and understand that the world is simply too out of pocket to justify upgrading to a new machine every couple of years. PCs have gone from being all in one devices to finding their niche in useful work or serious gaming. The rest can be done with a tablet or smartphone.

As IHS says, Intel’s Bay Trail and AMD’s Temash processors could inject some life into the market as PCs become lower cost, but higher performance and lower power. PC makers, IHS says, are “contemplating a new class of  performance PCs that would incorporate the new processors at affordable prices”.

There is still a current of hope for ultrathin devices, too, but Intel really put all its eggs in one basket when it arrogantly thought high cost Macbook Air knock-offs would fly off the shelf as the whole world got seriously more out of pocket.

“If a new low-cost PC offering strong performance can become available on the market and meet consumer expectations, then PCs could be set for more growth,” Stice said. “Not like the glory days of the 2000s, but growth nonetheless.”

Dell wants to get into wearable computing

dellTroubled PC seller Dell is planning to pin its hopes on a much mooted craze in wearable computing.

Already it has seen its rivals such as Google, Apple and Samsung talk about wearable computing being the next big thing and is hoping to have a stab at it early..

Sam Burd, Dell’s global vice-president of personal computing, told the Guardian  that Dell was  “exploring ideas in that space”.

He said that there were challenges in cost, and how to make it a really good experience.  But it was expected that computers were getting smaller and having a watch on your wrist was “pretty interesting, pretty appealing.”

CEO Michael Dell is  preparing to take the company private in a $24 billion leveraged buyout as the PC market, which made him a household name, begins to shrink in importance.  However it appears that the company is also seeking new sources of income.

Burd  said that over the next five years devices and form factors to continue to change. There will still be a need for ‘static’ computing on desktops, but there will be a real need for mobile devices.

“There’s a lot of discussion about how that fits into wearable devices like we’ve seen with Google Glass and watches. We’re looking at a world of lots of connected devices,” he said.

Burd did not see any magic new form factor arriving like the tablet did.  But the number of computing devices per person is exploding.

Dell has not announced any actual products in the wearable market but was looking at the technology, Burd said.

 

Big G sees more gloom for PC churners

pc-sales-slumpThe PC slump is set to continue, while tablet sales will remain strong well into the future, according to fresh data from Gartner.

Sales of traditional PCs are expected to hit just 305 million units this year, down 10.6 percent from last year. Things might be a bit better in 2014, but Gartner is still forecasting a 5 percent decline.

Even if non-traditional form factors, such as Chromebooks, hybrids and skinny clamshells are added to the PC figures, we’re still looking at a 7.3 percent decline this year.

Meanwhile tablets are still going strong. Tablet shipments are expected to reach 202 million units this year, up from 120 million in 2012. In 2014 tablet shipments should hit 276 million units. Mobiles are growing as well, but not at the same insane pace. Smartphone shipments are expected to grow by about 4.3 percent, with a volume of more than 1.8 billion units in 2012.

As far as non-traditional ultramobiles go, Gartner believes shipments will double this year, hitting 20 million units. Next year they should double again, to 40 million units, but even that won’t be enough to offset the slump across the rest of the PC market.

Demand for tablets and ultramobiles could be propped up by BYOD. Gartner believes that 72 percent of personal computing devices will used in the workplace by 2017 thanks to the new trend, which is already causing plenty of headaches in IT departments across the globe.

However, tablets might be about to run out of steam, as they are maturing fast and demand for high-end gear is evaporating.

“The increased availability of lower priced basic tablets, plus the value add shifting to software rather than hardware will result in the lifetimes of premium tablets extending as they remain active in the household for longer. We will also see consumer preferences split between basic tablets and ultramobile devices,” said Gartner research director Ranjit Atwal.

Interestingly, the combined share of Apple OS devices might overtake Microsoft’s OS share by 2015. Around 296 million Apple devices will ship this year compared to 339 million Windows devices. However, Android will outpace Apple and Microsoft combined, with shipments hitting 866 million units this year and passing the one billion mark next year.

IDC predicts more PC gloom

pc-sales-slumpIf you thought 2012 was a bad year for the PC industry, think again. Worldwide PC shipments are expected to fall by 7.8 percent this year, according to the latest IDC forecast. The forecast can be summed up in a single trend – consumers aren’t upgrading their PC boxes because they’re saving cash for tablets and smartphones.

In fact, the outlook has been revised downwards. It was originally believed that the PC market would decline 1.3 percent in 2013, followed by a slight rebound. The new outlooks sees a 7.8 drop in 2013 and a 1.2 percent decline in 2014, with shipments recovering to 333 million units in 2017, still below the 349 million shipped last year and 363 million shipped in 2011.

It is hardly surprising, as even Intel executives are admitting that there is practically no incentive to upgrade at the moment. There is no compelling hardware and Microsoft hasn’t exactly done a brilliant job with Windows 8. The mature PC market is trying to put up a fight against the tablet onslaught and it is taking a beating.

“As the market develops, usage patterns and devices are evolving,” said Loren Loverde, Program Vice President, Worldwide Quarterly PC Trackers at IDC. “Many users are realizing that everyday computing, such as accessing the Web, connecting to social media, sending emails, as well as using a variety of apps, doesn’t require a lot of computing power or local storage. Instead, they are putting a premium on access from a variety of smaller devices with longer battery life, an instant-on function, and intuitive touch-centric interfaces. These users have not necessarily given up on PCs as a platform for computing when a more robust environment is needed, but this takes a smaller share of computing time, and users are making do with older systems.”

Things could pick up next year, as support for Windows XP expires and businesses rush to upgrade. However, the average consumer probably won’t rush to replace an old PC. The update cycle is getting longer and longer. Another worrying trend is the BYOD phenomenon, which allows users to use their own gear in the workplace, thus delaying and reducing the volume of corporate PC purchases.

One has to wonder what will happen to average selling prices and margins over the next couple of years. Businesses replacing turn of the century XP boxes will probably look for the cheapest possible solutions. At the same time, demand in mature markets will continue to decline for the foreseeable future, while demand in emerging markets should start to recover next year. Emerging markets also tend to prefer cheaper devices, which means the era of “goon enough” computing is here to stay.

The enthusiast market has always been a bastion for high-end component makers, but it seems to be running out of steam as well. New CPUs and GPUs don’t deliver huge performance gains seen in past generations, yet they’re getting pricier. Affordable 4K screens are still years away and new consoles are about to hit retail, disturbing the PC gaming landscape further.

Demand for SSDs to stay strong

hdd-hugeAlthough the PC market has seen better days, shipments of solid state drives are expected to grow more than 600 percent by 2017, according to the latest figures released by IHS. However, even at this rate, two thirds of PCs shipped in 2017 will still have mechanical hard drives, although many of them will probably be hybrids. 

PC SSD shipments are expected to hit 227 million units in 2017, up from 31 million last year.

Hard drive shipments will drop to 410 million by 2017, down 14 percent from 475 million in 2012. In just five short years SSDs will claim 36 percent of the market, up from just six percent last year. HDDs will account for the remaining 64 percent, but memory makers stand to cash in from them as well, as hybrid drives hit the market in ever increasing numbers.

The driving force behind the SSD boom will be ultrabooks and other ultrathin devices. IHS analyst Fang Zhang believes ultrabooks and ultrathins, combined with touch screens and convertible form factors, will become very compelling machines, designed to lure consumers away from smartphones and tablets.

Of course, none of this is possible without more consumer interest. Although enthusiasts have been buying SSDs for years, the standard PC box buyer doesn’t care too much about the latest storage technology, which is still too pricey for mainstream adoption. Ultrabooks are slowly changing the public perception of SSDs are geeky devices for gamers and enthusiasts. Consumers are slowly starting to appreciate the added agility and responsiveness of SSD-based systems, and prices are tumbling as well.

On Tuesday Seagate announced its first series of SSD products designed to cover all market segments. The news was closely followed by an announcement from Western Digital and SadDisk, who will collaborate on new hybrid drives. Traditional HDD churners simply have to transition to SSDs and hybrid drives, it is just a matter of time.

“SSDs have dropped in price this year. The industry would probably put this down to supply and demand – but if I’m honest I think it’s all down to competition. Big players are moving in and really taking this industry to the next level – this week WD and Seagate separately announced their SSD push – and it wouldn’t surprise me if these larger players triggered a price war to push smaller players out of the market,” a reseller told us. “In terms of getting consumers more involved isn’t it just a case of making them a more prominent feature of gadgets and cost points? The average consumer just cares about what they can get and for how much.”

More marketing cash from the likes of Seagate and Western Digital will help, but so will tablets and smartphones. Consumer are already enjoying the perks of speedy solid state storage on their iPads and Androids, which means they are far more likely to go for an SSD based PC next time they upgrade. It is basically a case of not downgrading from a horse to a donkey, as Balkanese old wise men would say.

Monitor market in decline

50scrtThe stagnating and eventually declining demand for the traditional PC desktop has had an inevitable knock-on effect in the monitor industry, with the latest report from analyst house IDC lowering its Q4 2012 estimate from 37.9 million to 36.3 million units.

IDC also lowered total shipment forecasts for 2013 from 142.8 million to 140.1 million units, or a six percent yearly decline. The grim forecast will not be getting any better, with expectations that by 2017 shipments will drop to 122.2 million units.

As with the desktop itself, the booming mobile computing trend is essentially killing off demand for the monitor. IDC pointed to “consumer confusion” about Windows 8 paired with the wider economic situation as pretty solid reasons why people aren’t buying, which means decreased demand going into 2013.

Average selling prices, too, are likely to decline by as much as 1.5 percent per year going through to 2017. Those that are interested in buying will be glad to hear that overcrowded competition will mean companies lowering prices as they try to win custom. Price per inch could decline from $8.35 in 2012 to $7.46 in 2017, which should continue because of what IDC calls the natural migration of users to larger screen sizes. In 2012, the mean screen size was 20.4″, but this should grow to 21.4″ by 2017.

Vendors can boost their margins by looking towards innovation and building consumer value with lower cost monitors. IDC cites Samsung’s PLS technology as an attractive way to seduce custom.

IDC’s senior research analyst, Linn Huang, said that failure to drive innovation in the market will “likely result in the long-term tradeoff of profit margin for volume retention”.

Of the vendors still in the game, Samsung is ahead with 15 percent of the market share. Dell followed with 12.7 percent, and HP, Lenovo, and LG had 10.8 percent, 9.7 percent and 9.6 percent, respectively.

Windows 8 fails to woo people’s hearts and minds

msNobody expected Windows 8 to have a huge impact on the sluggish PC market, but now it seems that things could be a bit worse than Redmond would have us believe.

According to monthly statistics from NetMarketShare, sales of Windows 8 are not picking up much speed. In fact, in February Windows 8 ranked behind XP and Windows 7, with 38.99 per cent and 44.55 per cent share respectively.

At 2.76 per cent of web traffic, Windows 8 is even trailing behind Vista, one of Microsoft’s biggest lemons, which is still terrorising 5.17 percent of PC users.

The share of Windows 8 PCs on the web saw very little growth, just 0.41 percent from January, when it commanded a 2.26 percent share. In December the share was 1.72 percent.

The trend must be raising some eyebrows at Redmond, but there doesn’t seem to be much anyone can do to speed up Windows 8 adoption now. Although cutting the price is always an option, it would probably result in a brief spike, followed by plenty of angry questions from shareholders.

A quick glance at a couple of European price search engines reveals a relatively high number of Windows 7 desktops and laptops in practically every market segment, although Windows 8 is gaining a lot more traction in the high end and in Ultrabooks. However, volumes are what matter, as the same OS ships with a £1,000 Ultrabook and a dirt cheap 15-incher. Speaking of the latter, thousands of 15.6-inch and 16-inch laptops are still listed as shipping with Windows 7. Many of them can be upgraded to Windows 8 at no cost, but then again plenty can’t.

Holiday PC sales failed to impress and it appears that there are tons of early- to mid-2012 Windows 7 laptops and desktops in the channel. In fact, out of a few thousand 15-inchers listed at Skinflint, just 183 SKUs ship with Windows 8 Pro and 578 with Windows 8. However, 1396 SKUs are shipped with Windows 7 in four distinct flavours. The trend is even more evident on the continent.

At this rate, it will take a few quarters to get rid of Windows 7 inventory. In addition, very few consumers seem to be upgrading their existing PCs to Windows 8, despite the fact that the vast majority of Windows 7 PCs will easily run the new OS. In fact, most will end up even faster, without any hardware upgrades. However, money is tight and few people are willing to upgrade their operating system, especially as Windows 8 doesn’t bring a whole lot of headline features to the table.

Lenovo has nothing to fear from Dell deal

lenovo-logoOne of the few successful PC makers this year, Lenovo has said that it has nothing to fear from Dell going private.

For those who came in late, Michael Dell along with a consortium of chums which include Microsoft, bought up the with his name on it to make the hardware maker private.

The move will mean that Dell will not have to answer to any nasty smelly shareholders and Microsoft will be assured that it has a hardware base for its Windows 8 plans.
In a statement, Lenovo said that Dell’s actions will make no difference to its outlook. In fact the wording, which failed to mention Dell by name, seemed to imply that there had been calls for it to do something similar.

If Lenovo had been thinking of doing something similar that would have been surprising, nevertheless, the company seemed to be answering an unasked question “what will it do now?”.

In a press release Lenovo said it did not have to do anything, thank-you very much. Its strategy was clear, its financial position is healthy and its business is very strong.

Lenovo was “focused on products, customers and overall execution rather than distracting financial manoeuvres and major strategic shifts”.

Lenovo has enjoyed growth in sales and profits thanks to its strength in China and emerging markets so it never really need to change anything it was doing.

Since buying IBM’s PC business in 2005, Lenovo has grown fast and overtaken Dell in the PC market. It is the world’s second-largest PC vendor, is now only slightly behind market leader HP.
So Lenovo’s response to Dell’s sale is that “well we are not going to do anything like that” which is fair enough. We didn’t think it would.