After four years of decline, the desktop PC market is starting to stabilize, according to analyst firm IDC. While 2016 started out slowly for the industry, things started to move in the second half of the year. A total of 70.2 million desktop computers shipped in the Q4 2016, a year-on-year decline of just 1.5%. Total annual sales reached 260 million, a decline of 5.7% compared to 2015.
Lenovo was the best-performing of the big players in the market and grew 1.7%, though IDC notes that HP wasn't far behind and increased its shipments by 6.6%. Dell Technologies sat in third for the year, but grew in every region for a total increase of 8.2%. Apple moved back into fourth place thanks to the MacBook Pro, at the expense of Asus, now in fifth.
IDC says the sharper decline in the beginning of last year was caused by a combination of high inventory, the free upgrade to Windows 10, and difficulties encountered by consumers when comparing hardware to 2014 models. Partway through the year, though, things began to stabilize. Shortages of components like SSDs, displays, and memory helped the industry by letting the big players, in IDC's words, "move to lock up supply." Growth in the tablet and smartphone markets also slowed, providing another boost to the desktop market.
While markets across the world performed differently, the overall result is reasonably positive. Japan and Canada continued growing, while the combined regions of Europe, Middle East, and Africa remained stable. Desktop shipments in the US declined slightly, but still performed better than the global average. The Asia-Pacific region (excluding Japan) saw a slight decline, but is likewise showing improvement. The only area that doesn't seem to be on the upswing is Latin America, which "continued to experience significant contraction."
IDC's analysts see room for growth in both the consumer and business segments. Neha Mahajan of Devices & Displays noted that "the U.S. PC market was able to pull of a strong last quarter of the year with impressive growth in the retail PC segment that surpassed expectations." She added that it remains to be seen whether the growth will remain or was simply a result of the holiday rush. Loren Loverde, VP of Personal Computing Trackers & Forecasting, added that we may see further recovery in the PC market as users begin to update outdated computers.
Analysts have fretted for years about the future of the PC market, but things seem to be turning around, and we're all for it.