The PC industry just had its best quarter since 2012. Tablet sales are in a tailspin.
What in the name of desktop PCs,
An improving economy, the demise of Windows XP and the evolution of the computing masses conspired to alter the PC andtablet markets. But change could be temporary -- a mere blip in the fading fortunes of personal computer sales, industry analysts say.
Shipments of personal computers worldwide were 74.4 million in the second quarter, a decline of 1.7% from the year-ago quarter, market researcher IDC said. The drop was the lowest since tablet sales surged in 2012.
IDC attributes the easing to short-term business PC replacements, interest in Chromebooks and renewed growth in the U.S.,
Improving economic conditions and consumer confidence underscored the surge, based on a 2014 study of North American businesses by Spiceworks, a professional network for the information technology industry. It found 79% of IT professionals plan to purchase desktops, and 71% plan to buy laptops this year.
Personal computers -- and their power -- have also benefited from new technologies such as medical imaging, graphics rendering, 3-D printing, big data and cloud computing, according to
"The world got enamored with smartphones and tablets," Dell told USA TODAY in June. "But what's interesting is those devices don't do everything that needs to be done. 3-D printing, virtual-reality computing, robotics are all controlled by PCs. Productivity is grounded in the PC. Where does the computing power come from? How would you run a hospital without PCs?"
The reason for the PC industry's brighter outlook is simpler, says
"Comeback is relative," says
As PC sales rebound, tablet shipments are in a funk.
Research firm NPD DisplaySearch predicts tablet shipments will grow 14%, to 285 million units. By 2017, the annual growth rate will sputter to single digits, NPD says.
A confluence of factors have conspired to undercut the market: Young consumers watch video on smartphones; older users like laptops' larger screens; phablets have filled a void in between; and Apple has not upgraded the flagship market product, iPad, in more than a year.
Smartphones with screens larger than 5.5 inches are slicing into demand for smaller tablets -- those between 7 inches and 7.9 inches -- which accounted for 58% of global tablet shipments last year. Tablets are feeling the pinch in
Tablets don't require replacement as often, too, because they're frequently the second or third computing option among consumers, says
A wild card has been the emergence of the ultra-mobile PC as a bridge between the traditional laptop/desktop computer and the tablet. "Ultra-mobile PCs have given business professionals and consumers the mobility they've demanded while still allowing them to run more resource-intensive business applications (that) tablets have traditionally struggled to address," says
The market machinations have come amid a years-old chorus of "The PC is dead." But older users remain holdouts for larger devices with larger screens and type to read. Tablets are, for the most part, devices to play games and watch videos, Feibus says.
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