Worldwide personal computer (PC) shipments are forecast to decline by 6.4% year over year in 2016, according to an updated forecast from the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker. That doesn’t sound good, but it’s an improvement over August's projection for a decline of 7.2% in 2016.
While IDC's outlook for 2017 remains at -2.1% year-over-year growth, the absolute volumes are slightly higher based on stronger 2016 shipments. The third quarter of 2016 (3Q16) saw a year-over-year decline in shipments of 4.6%, more than 2 percentage points ahead of expectations.
Although factors such as the transition to Windows 10 played a role, the 3Q16 gains came largely as a result of stronger momentum in the U.S., Western Europe, and Japan, and were driven by channel build up in anticipation of component shortages in areas such as display panels and storage. This is expected to slightly boost shipments into early 2017, but won’t carry into later periods, according to IDC. Beyond 2016, the PC shipment outlook has been raised slightly, and continues to trend toward stabilization with modest commercial growth starting in 2018.
Commercial notebook shipments are expected to grow during 2016 and throughout the forecast, with a peak at 3.7% in 2019. Commercial desktop growth is expected to be effectively flat by 2018, while consumer notebook and desktop shipments are expected to decline slightly throughout the forecast.
Competition from tablets and smartphones continues to ease as those markets mature, according to IDC. Nevertheless, overlap in usage and converging designs is accelerating the shift in notebooks to ultra slim and convertible designs, which are now expected to account for almost 63% of notebook shipments by 2020, according to the research group. Combining detachable tablets with PCs, the market is projected to decline by 3.2% in 2016 with small positive growth in later years.