As PC sales hit an eight-year low, we’re living in the mobile era

downward pc trend

Gartner announced that worldwide PC shipments dropped considerably in 2015:

  • Shipments for the fourth quarter of 2015 were 75.7 million units, an 8.3% drop from the number shipped in 4Q 2014, and
  • shipments for the entire year of 2015 were 288.7 million units, an 8% drop from the number shipped for all of 2014.

Their preliminary 2015 shipment estimates for vendors worldwide show that the top 6 vendors by shipment all experienced a drop in shipments (randing from 3% to 11%) with one notable exception — Apple, who say a nearly 3% growth:

worldwide pc shipments 4q14 vs 4q15

Click the graph to see it at full size.

In the United States, vendors fared a little better. While the top two vendors, HP and Dell, saw shrinkage (especially HP, whose 4Q shipments dropped 8.5 from the previous year’s number), Apple and Lenovo made significant gains (a decent 6.5% and a stunning 21.1%, respectively), and Asus stayed even:

us pc shipments 4q14 vs 4q15

Click the graph to see it at full size.

We’ve been seeing this trend for some time. Global PC sales peaked in 2011 with just over 365 million units, and since then, sales have been cooling at an average rate of just under 6% per year:

global pc sales 8-year low

Click the graph to see it at full size.

IDC have released similar numbers, but their reported drop in worldwide PC shipments is even bigger: 10.6%, with the observation that “he year-on-year decline in 2015 shipments was nevertheless the largest in history, surpassing the decline of -9.8% in 2013.”

IDC cites a number reasons for the drop in PC shipments, which include:

  • Longer PC lifecycles,
  • falling commodity prices and weak international currencies,
  • “social disruptions” in EMEA and Asia/Pacific that affected foreign markets, and
  • last, but certainly not least, competition for technology consumer dollars from mobile devices, even though their growth has been reduced to single digits.

PC sales are now dwarfed by smartphone sales these days — the PCs sold in all of 2015 don’t even amount to as much as the smartphones sold on average for any given quarter of 2015. Here’s how many PCs and smartphones shipped in the previous quarter:

worldwide pc shipments vs smartphone shipments

Click the graph to see it at full size.

And to further drive home the point that it’s an increasingly mobile world, here’s Horace Dediu’s recent tweet, in which he declares that iOS alone — never mind Android — overtook Windows last year:

We’re well and truly living in the mobile era.

this article also appears in the GSG blog