Windows XP cut-off eases PC market slump but relief is brief

PC sales have fallen again, although the XP cut-off has eased this slump

The end of Windows XP support has forced businesses and individuals to buy new PCs, helping to ease the slowdown of the market, but shipments are still falling.

Gartner data predicts that PC shipments in 2014 will only fall by 2.4 percent, compared with 9.5 percent in 2013, due to the need for organisations to finally replace their ageing XP machines.

In total, shipments of traditional desktop PCs will fall from 296 million in 2013 to 276 million in 2014, a decrease of 19 million. This gradual easing of the PC market slump will continue into 2015 with sales falling by 15 million to 261 million.

Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner, told V3 the market was moving towards stability, with 2016 likely to see similar shipments to 2015. “There is still a decline on the consumer side but the professional market is coming back, not just from Windows XP to Windows 7, but also just firms replacing Windows 7 machines,” he said.

Another area of optimism for PC vendors is around ultramobile and premium devices – known as ultrabooks – which are predicted to grow. Sales will rise from 22 million in 2013 to 32 million in 2014, and then hit 55 million in 2014.

“Ultrabooks will appeal to people who want a PC but just don’t use it that often. But the market is never going to return to large growth numbers,” Atwal added.

Meanwhile, the tablet market continues to grow with 2014 shipments set to reach 256 million units, an increase of 23.9 percent from 2013. It will grow again in 2015 to 320,964. Finally on the hardware front, phone sales are expected to rise from 1,806,964 in 2013 to 1,862,766 in 2014, then 1,946,456 in 2015.

Operating system overlords
Meanwhile in the operating system market it appears Apple, Android and Windows very much have the market to themselves, as they erode away the ‘other’ systems that exist in the market.

By 2015 Android, Windows and iOS/Mac OS will account for 2,045,936 shipments of all devices combined, compared with 546 million for ‘others’, such as the Firefox OS or Tizen.

This represents a clear shift in the balance between the two sides, with shipments of other operating systems as high as 873 million in 2013. The desire among consumers for operating systems with large application offerings is a clear reason for this, Atwal said.

“In emerging markets where other operating systems may have a chance, consumers will start to move to devices based on the operating system in order to access applications,” he said.

Overall Gartner’s data shows worldwide shipments of PCs, tablets, ultramobiles and mobile phones will reach 2.4 billion units in 2014, a 4.2 percent increase from 2013. It will then hit 2.6 billion in 2015 as the overall demand for hardware rises.

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