Business buys bright spot in dim computer market

computersSAN FRANCISCO: The personal computer market limped along in the first quarter of this year, its footing aided a bit by businesses buying gear, according to a pair of industry trackers.

Gartner Inc. estimated that 62.2 million personal computers were shipped worldwide in the first three months of this year, marking the first time in about a decade the quarterly number has dropped below 63 million.

International Data Corporation put the figure lower in a Worldwide Quarterly Personal Computing Device Tracker report, saying a total of 60.3 million desktop, notebook and workstation computers were shipped.

But, while Gartner said the number was down from the same quarter last year, IDC said it inched up a fraction of a percent by its calculations.

What strength there was in the PC market came from businesses purchasing new machines while consumers remained on the sidelines, evidently happy with smartphones, tablets or older computers.

The traditional PC market has been going through “a tough phase,” with competition from tablets and smartphones as well as machines having life cycles lengthened by users who wait longer to upgrade, according to IDC research manager Jay Chou.

While the market for consumer PCs will likely remain under pressure, businesses were launching into a “replacement cycle” that meant they would be updating computer equipment, according to Chou.

“Consumers continued to refrain from replacing older PCs, and some consumers have abandoned the PC market altogether,” Gartner said in a release.

“The business segment still sees the PC as an important device, and it’s the main work device for businesses.”

Increasing popularity of PC gaming and sated needs for tablets and smartphones could renew consumers’ interest in laptop or desktop machines, according to Chou.

“Vendors who do not have a strong presence in the business market will encounter major problems,” said Gartner principal analyst Mikako Kitagawa.

“However, there will also be specialized niche players with purpose-built PCs, such as gaming PCs and ruggedized laptops.”

Lenovo and HP were essentially tied in shipments at the top of the PC market, with China-based Lenovo having a 19.9% share and US-based HP having 19.5%, according to Gartner.

Dell was in third position with 15% of the market in the first quarter of this year, Gartner reported.

“The top three vendors — Lenovo, HP and Dell — will battle for the large-enterprise segment,” Kitagawa said.