There’s good news and bad news for PC makers in the latest reports from research firms IDC, Gartner, and NPD. The bad news is that most reports suggest PC sales in 2013 were down about 10 percent from the previous year, with 4th quarter/holiday shipments down about 6 percent from 2013. The good news is that’s not quite as bad as some had predicted.

Another bit of good news? The growth of new product categories are helping to offset declining sales of traditional PCs.

For example, NPD reports that Chromebook sales are up 112 percent from a year earlier.

Reports seem to agree that global PC shipments in the 4th quarter of 2013 were between 82 and 83 million units. That’s not exactly nothing… but as IDC points out in its report, that means PC sales declined for the 7th consecutive quarter.

Lenovo reportedly sold more PCs than anyone else, followed by HP, Dell, Acer, and Asus.

While most Windows PC makers saw declining sales (or only moderate growth), NPD reports that Macbook sales were up 13 percent from a year earlier.

Meanwhile, NPD reports that people bought about 11 million tablets during the holiday season, which is a 45 percent jump over 2012. But because many of those new tablets were small, inexpensive models, revenue was up only 7 percent.

Many people in developing markets are picking up smartphones as their first computing devices, and in developed markets tablets may be low-cost, easy-to-use alternatives to a traditional PC for many shoppers.

Another low-cost, easy-to-use alternative could be a Chromebook — and it looks like as many as 2.5 million Chrome OS laptops may have been sold in 2013. That’s still a pretty small number when compared with total PC sales, but it’s still a big increase from last year.

Technically, a Chromebook is probably just as much as PC as a model running Windows, OS X, or Ubuntu (or other Linux distributions). But since they put the web browser front and center, offer an easy way to get online, and make it easy to save your data in the cloud and difficult to download malware, they may be more attractive options for some users.

Or maybe they’re just selling well because they’re so cheap. Many Chromebooks sell for $300 or less.

Another item that may be of interest to Liliputing readers: Gartner singles out the Asus Transformer Book T100 as a device that had high demand, but it wasn’t enough to prevent Asus from seeing a significant dip in year-over-year growth. The Transformer Book T100 is a low-cost Windows tablet with an Intel Atom Bay Trail processor and a keyboard dock that lets you use the tablet like a notebook. It’s one of my favorite devices from 2013.

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26 replies on “Reports: PC sales decline by 10% but Chromebooks climb 112%”

  1. We were considering greenlighting Chromebooks for schools but decided against it. None of the sysadmins liked the machine though some gave faint praise for the simplicity.
    I guess in some quarters and for some uses it could replace a Windows laptop but there are any number of scenarios where it just can’t.

    1. One is going up, the other coming down. Chromebooks seem to indicate that the traditional PC market isn’t entirely stagnant unless you are MS.

      1. Doubtful, probably has mostly to do with how Chromebooks are finally being sold at pretty low prices… but now we’re finally seeing low cost Windows devices. So, I doubt the trend will remain the same very long, if it hasn’t changed already…

      2. The increase in MacBook sales are also an indicator that the PC market isn’t stagnating since that’s a larger increase in total numbers than Chromebooks. Plus, some Windows PC makers did see moderate growth even with the likely saturated market. Not many people left who don’t already have a PC and the hardware requirements for most software hasn’t really increased much. So many only upgrade their PCs when they break and it costs too much time/money to fix.

  2. First off using windows drives up the cost as ms will never give you any break on price,then there’s win8 not helping any,plus these PC company’s seem like they would rather go out of business than cut their profit margin a few dollars

  3. As a former Chromebook owner, I can testify they are pretty useless for the PC users majority. Most people buy them without knowing their limits. In the store they look and run beautiful, with the store’s broadband, but if you don’t have a broadband connection at home, they are useless. And I living 2 miles from Weslaco, TX downtown, I don’t have a broadband connection, pretty incredible in 2014…

    1. As a student, the slowest connection I have access to is 10mbit fibre, above that it’s 50mbit or gigabit. My current activities are also basically IRC, Skype and Chrome so it’s all relative, it’d probably be great for my day to day stuff but as soon as I need to write some code it’s just not enough. The point is that anecdotal evidence isn’t useful but sales figures are.

  4. Is that sold to users or shipped to retailers? How much of that are the Chromebooks Google practically gave away to schools? What percentage are those who bought a Chromebook solely to put Linux on them? What are the return rates?

    1. I know of at least one school with Chromebooks not doing anything. They got them almost for free so they took them. Although, no one figured out how to integrate them into the school’s curriculum yet.

      1. Schools barely use the technology they get. It’s sad. But when systems acquire a bunch of tech and then don’t train their already overworked teachers how to use it or methods of efficient deployment, the tech doesn’t get used. Sure, it’s great to have shiny new things that the kids need but when a classroom has ten more kids than it should have and the teacher is buried in a mass of pointless bureaucracy, not much happens.

    2. FYI: I’m not a Chromebook fan/user. Shipments and estimates across the board for all the devices. Return rates are unknown for all these. If Chromebooks weren’t expanding or were having massive returns, OEM’s wouldn’t be rushing out to make more models. Lenovo is going to be adding three this year, for instance. The percent who buy them and put Linux on them is going to be low because the number of Linux users overall are low. I say this as someone who uses Linux on occasion, though not for work just for tinkering. The number of people who put Linux on them and talk about it online, however, will be a relatively high number in comparison just because techies talk tech.

      Chromebooks are finding a niche. Surface is finding a niche. I expect both to climb in sales. And that’s a good thing. We need Windows RT to push iOS and Android. We need Google Chromebooks to push Microsoft to up their game. We need competition to get better products at lower prices. This is why I’m not a fanboy of anything. It’s why I use Microsoft software and Google services and Apple Devices. Not hitching my cart to one wagon.

      1. I’ve been seeing more Chromebooks in the various coffeeshops where I hang out (Starbucks, hipster indie), which really surprises me. I know three people who own them and just love them — these people are certainly not “techie” types. I’m a tech type, and never thought the concept of Chromebooks/ChromeOS would catch on — I just figured they would be limited to a few Google fans and techies buying them to hack. I do now think Microsoft does have a reason to worry, and this sales report backs their worries.

        Windows RT/Surface RT isn’t making a dent. That OS and Windows Phone will likely converge (which makes sense). Microsoft’s best hope are all the 8″ Windows 8.1 tablets that are out (or coming out)… they really are cool, and finally give you the Windows desktop experience in a nice tablet with decent battery life and price ($250 to $400). But will enough of the general non-techie public be interested in them?

        I own such a tablet — the Dell Venue Pro — and love it. But I get this sense that maybe the general public has gotten so accustomed to the “simplicity” of mobile OSes — iOS and Android — that most want a similar experience from their computers, which could also be another factor why Chromebooks have sold well. They may just be fed up with dealing with the Windows desktop environment and Microsoft in general over the last several years, and simply don’t want it in their mobile devices.

        1. “They may just be fed up with dealing with the Windows desktop environment and Microsoft in general over the last several years, and simply don’t want it in their mobile devices.”

          I think that’s a lot of it. Consumers don’t want to worry with anything. No updates. No Windows Defender or anti-virus programs. We’ve reached the era when people are starting to view their computer devices like appliances. Like their refrigerator, it should just work unless it breaks down mechanically years after purchase. Not that that’s a bad thing. I’m a techie and I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t want anything to worry about except when I’m tinkering.

          I like Windows, especially like Office. I would love to switch to a nice Windows 8.1 machine and leave my aging Macbook behind. But Microsoft is clearly behind and playing catch up. They’re on the right track now and have some great ideas and technology but can’t afford any mistakes. ChromeOS should scare them, because what happens when ChromeOS has more packaged apps and starts delivering mid-level, capable machines?

          The rumors of Samsung’s next Chromebook with a 2560×1600 screen and a price of under $400 … Screen and keyboard are the most important things to me. My laptop is getting old, and I’ve got a spiffy desktop to handle intensive work tasks. It makes me look at the Chromebook and wonder if I could manage to live with Google Docs for 90% of my writing. Probably not, but Microsoft, and Apple too, should be worried about me pondering such things. I won’t be the only one. And if each year ChromeOS gets a bit better with great specs at low prices …

          I haven’t seen any Chromebooks in the wild here yet, but then I hardly ever see any Windows laptops either. It’s nearly all Macbooks all the time. I even saw two 2002-era iBooks at Whole Foods recently. Semi-retro-hipster?

          1. Maybe, but Chromebooks still cater to the lowest common denominators and generally don’t offer a lot on performance. The ARM based ones only rivaled the older ATOMs and many of the x86 based ones still are configured as low end PC’s and unless equipped with a hard drive can offer as little drive capacity as a ARM device with maybe a 16GB SSD… The ARM based ones are also a little harder to get a Linux distro to run as well, further limiting their potential…

            While the lack of any large numbers of native apps means performance will rarely meet the limits of the hardware and even despite being out for years now the rate of app market growth is still very slow… In comparison the Windows ModernUI app store is growing at a very rapid rate and this year MS plans to release the ModernUI version of Office and Chrome OS has yet to get any pro apps…

            In environments where Chrome should have a clear advantage, such as schools, many are just sitting around and not being used as there’s a big difference between potential and actual applications… The infrastructure and setup needed to get there has simply not been created yet and doesn’t look like it will any time soon… at least not for the majority, as there may be exceptions but it seems more promise than fulfillment at this point for most…

            So, I really doubt Chrome poses much of a long term risk to MS… Chromebook sales were stagnant for over two years and only really got going when they finally lowered the prices and made them really affordable but with Bay Trail devices coming out at also affordable pricing there’s a lot less reason to push them now and they likely have missed their window of opportunity to capitalize on the lack of affordable options…

            More than likely Android will just replace Chrome as Google’s alternative OS and they’ll just evolve it to have a desktop equivalent mode to further evolve it beyond being just a mobile OS… It’ll just be the reverse of what MS is doing with Windows 8…

            Besides, people’s use of technology evolves over time… Many may be able to make due with little more than a web browser based OS now but eventually they’ll want more than that solution can offer… whether it be games, productivity, or other uses that will extend beyond the abilities of a Chromebook there’s little hope for a long term future for a solution that’s clearly limited to begin with…

          2. I mostly agree with you, except that Microsoft is clearly worried enough to fight back before ChromeOS can take off (striking early just in case is smart) and about Android. ChromeOS is Google’s future, not Android. ChromeOS is their walled garden, just like the Windows Modern Store and the App Store. Android was begun to make sure Microsoft didn’t achieve a phone monopoly, and then evolved to make sure iOS didn’t achieve the same thing. Now that it’s out there, it can keep doing that. But ChromeOS can give them a complete system. Chromebook is to Google as Surface is to Microsoft.

          3. I’d have to disagree, based on the premise your making that Chrome could ever provide a complete system… ChromeOS is by definition a web browser OS and that is limited by design and its very nature… which is also part of the reason why its app ecosystem has hardly evolved since it was introduced as it’s much harder to evolve something that isn’t really intended to be used for much more than a specific range of uses…

            Google’s real interest has never been in providing a complete OS but a gateway to their services as the web has always been their primary domain… Things like hardware and everything else was never really their concern but just a means to a end!

            Keep in mind Google isn’t selling Chrome, it gives it away! The same with Android… Everything they do is thus centered on getting revenue from their Internet services, ads, etc. and they mostly leave the hardware aspect to their partners…

            I’d also have to disagree with the comparison to the Surface… Chromeboooks may serve to provide Google with coverage of the laptop market, like Surface provides MS coverage for the tablet market, but Chromebooks do not seek to be cross platform/form factor solution like the Surface does… Only recently was any touch screen support even added to ChromeOS…

            Besides, it’d be much easier to just merge Chrome with Android and only then would you have something like the Surface… Keep in mind that MS is using the ModernUI for everything, ranging from Phones to full desktops but that’s not something that Chrome could be applied for by itself…

            Google would much rather just win the browser war anyway and have all devices run their web browser, regardless of what OS the device ran on as that’s ultimately is their end game!

            For now, IMO, Chromebooks exist for much the same reason Android once had two forks between phone and tablet versions… Neither Android or Chromebooks can yet cover the entire range but even if Google would prefer Chrome, Android has the most flexibility, convenience, and potential for end users and ultimately Google will have to go with what works best for getting people to use their services…

            Keep in mind, Chromebooks are so far only eating into the PC market
            but the mobile market is larger, developing the fastest, and Android’s
            app ecosystem is already more developed!

            So, IMO, Chromebooks are just a means to a end and while Google wouldn’t mind making Chrome the sole focus of an entire system for everyone, their walled garden as you put it, the chances of that ever happening are very unlikely with the way things are transpiring…

        2. The problem with Windows RT/Surface RT isn’t that it’s a bad device, it’s just that it took too long to bring to the consumer, and Google has big lead on them with Chrome OS, and the biggest problem Microsoft can’t compete with is PRICE-$$!!, and lets be clear on the obvious, how many of us when we are out and about need anything more than a browser?, I often get the replies of “I can’t run Photoshop!”, but actually you can with Remote desktop with your Home Desktop PC, as I do this all the time!, I read an article about a guy who had a need for RAW images with his DSLR camera, so I showed him how I did it, of course you need an Internet connection!, so if you are out in the middle of the desert with no signal then it’s better to lug the Laptop…but how often does that happen?, I can’t remember the last time I did not have a situation of no Internet connection of WiFi or LTE…I have an expensive Windows i7 laptop I purchased last year that sits on my Desktop, but my daily well used mobile device is my Chromebook!, just the other day an Apple guy with his Macbook Pro was looking for a lighter device and was thinking about the MacBook Air 11″ at $1000 or as I suggested to him a Chromebook that was $750 cheaper!, and for what he needed the device for it made sense!, he went across the street to Best Buys and got one, and was up and going from Starbucks in less than 30 minutes as he was already using most things Google on his MacBook Pro… I like the Macbook air, just not the price, for the average mobile laptop user the Chromebook will fit the needs of 99% of users, so the 1% can get whatever specifics needs that attribute for high dollar spending of upper end devices…if I need for that rare occasion, I will just wipe the dust from my i7 laptop, as most people are already using their Tablets as replacements for laptops…I use mine almost everywhere I don’t use my Galaxy Note 2 phablet, and given they work so well with each other as Google makes sure of that!, I start on my Galaxy Note 2, then put it down open my Chromebook on page or same app on Chrome, I can even answer/make calls or SMS text messages and get all notifications from phone to Chromebook….it can’t get any easier!
          Microsoft has some time to catch up with available apps and how well connected the Google world is with all things even of Windows! or Apple, I sometime wonder why Microsoft/Apple puts boundaries on their stuff when Google makes it so easy to implement their stuff, I mostly use Linux at home…Microsoft is a big slow moving elephant and Apple is just a better dressed and faster Elephant, but Google is an Octophant with speed and tentacles into everything, Apple as far as I know does not have 3 levels one can choose from as Google does with Chrome in that you can choose “Stable”, “Beta” or “Dev-elopers” mode and get the Latest Edge Technology on device, of course knowing it is Beta with risk?, When I started on with Chromebook I was on “Dev” for first year then moved to “Beta” as Chrome OS has matured for everything I need, and with the inclusion of Chromecast HDMI device, it is very impressive!, I pulled out my Chromecast, hooked it up to conference room 70″ HDTV in an instant was making a presentation without any pre setup, I just winged it with what I had in my archives!! and controlled it from my Galaxy Note 2 phone as I was walking around the room….it was sweet!, and so easy my Grandma could have done it, but nothing is perfect but what impresses me is how fast the Chromium test group brings ideas and innovations to market…and both the Elephants in the room are having hard time keeping up! as I was walking around CES in Las Vegas one thing was certain Google is into EVERYTHING!!, even in the competitors! you have to give them credit for that…I have yet to see such a reach from Microsoft/Apple in the same of their competitors….??

    3. I went to the Best Buys near my area to find the new acer chromebook, of the five branches available, only one was not sold out but it was down to the last one in their stock. So I don’t think the numbers change all that much when you consider whether they’re sold to users or retailers. And I hardly think chromebooks given to schools are considered sales. But isn’t that a good thing? I’m a heavy linux user. Before I bought mine, I basically planned on installing linux right from unboxing it. Now, I’m not so sure I’ll ever install linux on it. I’ve read online many people were in the same vote as me.

  5. I wonder how many people windows 8 is turning off from getting a new device. Chromebooks appear to be a curiosity right now – a few curious buys will easily raise that stat. Low powered Netbooks had their heyday too.

    1. I doubt it has anything to do with Windows 8, PC’s just have fewer reasons to get a new system…

      There isn’t any overt rapid end of life pressure to force an upgrade like there are with mobile devices, there aren’t any significant improvements to drive interest in getting a new system like there are with mobile devices, and pricing makes them more of an investment in most cases than a mobile device… especially with most people’s needs being pretty basic… leaving those still getting new systems to those who need performance for work and gamers…

      While PC users tend to rarely need to change, up till they announced XP’s finally being dropped from support the majority of all Windows users were still using XP… Showing it has nothing to do with Windows 8 as they weren’t even using Windows 7 and only after they made that announcement did Windows 7 finally become the version used by the majority.

      The Industry just needs to change and get people interested in new products but it does appear to be improving as the decline was greater before and seems to be slowing now… So 2014 may be when it finally starts improving again…

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