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TWO BILLION PCs to sell in next five years

Which sounds great! Shame annual sales will be less in 2021 than they were in 2016

More bad news for the PC and tablet market: analyst IDC says the five-year sales slump is set to extend to a decade of decline.

The firm now predicts that just 418.2 million units will ship in 2021, down from 2016's 435 million machines, for a compound annual growth rate of -0.8 per cent.

There's a tiny ray of sunlight in future sales of touch-screen PCs with detachable screens, as that category's sales will more than double in the next five years. The market for conventional portable PCs will also grow five or six million units. But desktops and pure-play tablets will continue a slow slide.

Here's IDC's predictions, with shipments in millions, drawn from the firm's Worldwide Quarterly Personal Computing Device Tracker for February 2017.

Form Factor 2016 Shipments 2016 Share 2021 Shipments 2021 Share 2016-2021 CAGR
Desktop + DT & Datacenter Workstation 103.3 23.80% 89.8 21.50% -2.80%
Notebook + Mobile Workstation 156.8 36.00% 162.5 38.90% 0.70%
Detachable Tablet 21.4 4.90% 56.1 13.40% 21.20%
Slate Tablet 153.5 35.30% 109.8 26.30% -6.50%
Grand Total 435 100.00% 418.2 100.00% -0.80%
Traditional PC 260.1 59.80% 252.3 60.30% -0.60%
Traditional PC + Detachable 281.6 64.70% 308.4 73.70% 1.80%
Total Tablet (Slate + Detachable) 174.9 40.20% 165.9 39.70% -1.10%

A glass-half-full view of those predictions is that there's a market for over two billion personal computing devices between now and 2021. That's cracking news for Microsoft and Intel, given that they together continue to dominate the PC market. It also means there's going to be lots of Windows out there for the foreseeable future.

On the downside, the ongoing sales slump shows that attempts to excite the PC market just aren't working. Microsoft talks up Windows 10 as enabling greater productivity and Intel keeps making its silicon faster at the things people care about (mostly rendering and displaying video at ever-higher resolutions). Neither effort seems to be working.

One last observation: smartphone sales are headed for 1.5 billion a year, but of course those devices have a shorter lifecycle than PCs as they cop more wear and tear. Much of the world's smartphone fleet will therefore refresh once or twice between now 2021. The PC fleet might refresh once if all goes well. ®

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