Time was when back-to-school computer promotions were a major sales driver for the PC industry. Unfortunately, those hoping to see computer sales start to grow again this fall are leaving the back-to-school season disappointed. Preliminary numbers from Gartner indicate that worldwide shipments of PCs declined 5.7% compared to the same quarter of last year. Shipments have now declined for eight consecutive quarters, the longest such stretch in the PC industry's history.
Gartner offers two reasons as to why this decline is continuing. The first is that consumers are waiting longer to upgrade their PCs. Consumers in mature markets indicate in Gartner's surveys that they use and own at least three devices, and that their PC is not the highest priority device. These consumers are much more likely, for example, to upgrade their phone than their PC, and many parents are handing down their old computers to their kids rather than purchasing them new ones.
The second reason is that consumers in emerging markets aren't all that keen to purchase PCs. While the U.S. saw a relatively flat 0.3%decline in PC shipments since last year, shipments in the Asia-Pacific region declined 7.6%. Gartner suggests that consumers in emerging markets are more likely to use smartphones or phablets instead of a computer.
Despite the gloomy overall numbers, there are a few rays of sunshine in Gartner's report. While Lenovo's shipments declined overall, its U.S. PC shipments increased 15.3%. These gains gave the company the edge over HP Inc. as the leading global supplier of PCs. Dell, HP, and Asus all saw increases in PC shipments both inside the U.S. and internationally. Mobile PCs (including notebooks, two-in-ones, and Windows tablets) showed better growth than their desktop counterparts, though Gartner didn't offer a detailed breakdown. Finally, Gartner doesn't include Chromebooks in its PC shipment report, but notes that Chromebooks exceeded PCs in shipment growth this quarter.