By guest blogger Kevin Connors
While the worldwide shipment of personal computers continues to decline, the market for those devices has remained relatively stable in the United States, bolstered partly by schools’ continued reliance on them, according to a newly released industry report.
According to preliminary results from a report by the Connecticut-based research firm Gartner, Inc., PC shipments dropped almost nine million units worldwide during the second quarter of 2013, marking a loss for the fifth consecutive quarter—the longest sustained decline in history for those devices, the analysis says.
But while international shipments suffered a 10.9 percent loss, the picture within the United States was strikingly different. American manufacturers shipped almost 15 million units within the United States during the second quarter, representing a slight, 1.4 percent decline from the second quarter of 2012 and their best performance in the last seven quarters.
Two of the top five companies, Dell and Lenovo, actually saw an increase in shipments. Apple, meanwhile, saw shipments fall from 1.82 million to 1.74 million, but remains the third largest manufacturer of PCs in the U.S. marketplace.
According to the report, this muted decline in the U.S. market can be attributed to the relative strength of the professional PC market, which includes educational institutions.
Despite the worldwide shift toward tablets for primary personal use, the report’s authors believe those devices have not clearly positioned themselves in the education market yet and do not yet possess the capability to replace a PC. While tablets are becoming more popular in schools, Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst with Gartner, said they are often bought as an addition to PCs, not as a replacement for them.
“The big question with educational institutions is not cost—because now there are a lot of low-cost PCs available. It’s really about functionality,” Kitagawa told Education Week. “Do you want a really engaging touch screen with a lot of apps, or possibly more functional PC with a keyboard? In the U.S. market, we are still seeing a lot of PCs in schools.”
The end of support from Microsoft for Windows XP next year also could have prompted many professional buyers to purchase updated PCs with Windows 7 operating systems, Kitagawa said.
Some analysts attribute the decline in the overall PC market to the technical glitches of Windows 8, the most recent operating system put on the market by Microsoft. As a result of those glitches, individual consumers—who generally adopt new technology quicker than professional markets—are hesitant to purchase new PCs with Windows 8. However, Kitagawa did not think that assertion was on point, saying it does not explain the sustained drop in PC shipments in the worldwide market over the last 15 months.
In the overall international market, each of the top five PC manufacturers saw the number of devices they shipped in the international market decline. Lenovo, HP, and Dell each slipped by less than five percent, but Acer and ASUS had losses of 35 percent and 20 percent, respectively.
Kitagawa believes the downward trend in the world market can be partly attributed to consumers’ shift to low-cost tablets, especially in countries that are emerging markets.
“Inexpensive tablets have become the first computing device for many people, who are at best deferring the purchase of a PC,” Kitagawa said in the statement. In many mature and developed markets outside the United States, she explained, such tablets are replacing low-end machines.