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PC or not PC? That is the question...

PC or not PC? That is the question...

"Fortunately for PC makers, tablet growth has slowed."

Worldwide PC shipments are expected to fall by -4.9 per cent in 2015, a drop from the previous forecast of -3.3%, while growth projections for 2016 and 2017 were raised slightly, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker.

Fourth quarter 2014 (4Q14) results were 1.7 per cent ahead of forecast, but economic and product changes will create a head wind in the short term.

Total 2015 volume is projected at 293.1 million PCs, slipping a little further to 291.4 million in 2019.

In value terms, the PC market reached $US201 billion in 2014, a decline of -0.8 per cent , and is expected to fall another -6.9 per cent in 2015 with smaller declines in subsequent years bringing the total to $US175 billion by 2019.

Although portions of the market saw genuine improvements in demand during the second half of 2014, part of the 4Q14 volume was inflated by an inventory build-up of "Windows 8.1 + Bing" systems in anticipation of Microsoft scaling back subsidies in early 2015.

As a result, IDC expects the short term impact to hit consumer channels as they work to clear stock.

In addition, average prices are likely to rise in the near term with the scaling back of Bing subsidies, the strong US Dollar (which makes systems more expensive abroad), and the continuing shift to slim, convertible, and touch-based systems.

Furthermore, while recent processor updates have generated positive reception, more significant product refreshes from the likes of Intel (Skylake platform) and Microsoft (Windows 10) will be released later in the year, shifting OEM product updates and consumer interest toward later in 2015.

"Fortunately for PC makers, tablet growth has slowed," says Jay Chou, Senior Research Analyst, Worldwide PC Trackers.

"The PC ecosystem has also begun to see some fruits from efforts to narrow the divide between the PC and mobile devices in terms of both user experience and price points.

"Nevertheless, much more needs to be done as advances in both hardware and software are expected to benefit an ever wider spectrum of form factors, such as 2-in-1 devices that will further siphon volume from notebooks."

Emerging markets continue to struggle, finishing 2014 with a decline of 9.5 per cent in PC shipments and with 2015 growth projections lowered to -4.7%, pushing volume down throughout the forecast.

Continued political instability, commodity pricing pressures, and currency devaluations in these regions have curtailed spending across a number of sectors, including public projects that provided a boost in recent years.

Competition from other devices such as phones, tablets, and wearable tech also pose an ongoing challenge to PC spending.

Although emerging regions are still expected to see positive growth by 2017, shipment projections remain below 160 million units through 2019, down from 163.7 million in 2014.

Mature regions continued to fare better, ending 2014 with positive growth of 8.4 per cent for the year, the first growth year since 2010 - this growth was supported by XP system replacements, slowing tablet purchases, and aggressive PC pricing.

Nevertheless, PC volumes in mature regions are expected to drop by -5.1 per cent in 2015 with incremental declines thereafter.

Building on the strength of 2014 volume as well as attractive products in the premium and low-priced segments, projections for PC volume in mature regions are up slightly to 134 million in 2019 from the prior forecast of 130 million.

The introduction of Windows 10 later this year is expected to be well received and support the Windows ecosystem, including some replacements.

However, it will also provide a better experience with mouse and keyboard, effectively relieving some pressure to move toward touch, and support non-PC devices like 2-in-1s, likely without boosting total PC shipments significantly.

"The gains in mature regions for 2014 helped stabilize the market, but any opportunity for long-term growth depends on reviving growth in emerging regions, and that seems unlikely with the shift toward mobile devices," adds Loren Loverde, Vice President, Worldwide PC Trackers.

"Even including 2-in-1 systems would only boost the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for total PC shipments through 2019 from -1.1 per cent to 0.5 per cent .

"Vendors can focus on growth segments of the PC market such as AIO, slim and convertible PCs, or consolidate share, but pressure on pricing and from competing devices will continue to make it a challenging market."

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