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Dismal PC business contraction continues; no bounce yet from Windows 10

Gregg Keizer | Oct. 12, 2015
Mac sales may also shrink, says IDC, though Gartner disagrees.

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As expected, Windows 10 provided little if any bounce to PC shipments in the just-concluded September quarter, researchers at IDC and Gartner said last Friday.

"Not in terms of driving volume, no," said Loren Loverde of IDC in a Friday interview when asked about Windows 10's impact. "The main inhibiting concern has been the continuing free upgrade."

Rival research firm Gartner concurred. "The focus of the Windows launch in the quarter was to upgrade to Windows 10 on existing PCs, rather than ship on new PCs," the company said in a statement.

Both IDC and Gartner pegged third-quarter PC shipments as down from the same period in 2014, although they differed slightly on the extent of the contraction. IDC said that shipments declined 11% year-over-year, while Gartner said it was closer to 8%. IDC put shipments at 71 million, Gartner, at 74 million. Part of the difference is how each defines the category: IDC does not include tablets with detachable keyboards, such as Microsoft's Surface Pro, while Gartner does.

According to IDC, the top three OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) -- Lenovo, HP and Dell -- saw shipments decline by 5%, 6% and 3%, respectively. Gartner forecast shipment decays of 4% for Lenovo and HP, with a half-point increase for Dell.

If IDC's forecast proves accurate, it would be the fourth-worst quarter for PC makers since the research company and its analysts began tracking shipments in 1996.

IDC and Gartner agreed that Windows 10 did nothing for the industry in the September quarter, as Microsoft's attention was on getting the free upgrade into current customers' hands, and OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) were unable to fully flesh out their portfolios with new devices during the stretch -- in part, because of the short span between Microsoft handing Windows 10 to its partners and the public launch.

The fourth quarter may be different.

"The Windows 10 rollout will ramp up in 4Q15 holiday sales," said Gartner, reflecting reality, which has seen new device introductions by Microsoft, Dell and Hewlett-Packard in the last few days, with other OEMs to follow shortly.

But even if fourth-quarter shipments get a boost from Windows 10 -- something Loverde said was possible as new designs like Microsoft's Surface Book go on sale -- there's no chance that the numbers will be enough to stem the continued slide of the personal computer industry for the year. IDC, for example, currently projects a 9% reduction in 2015, although that number did not reflect the third quarter's dismal results, hinting at an eventual larger-than-expected contraction for the year.


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