Notebook computers have been outselling desktop PCs for years, but it’s probably a bit early to put desktops on deathwatch. They’re still popular among business users, gamers, and others… and according to new numbers from IDC, it looks like notebooks only outsold desktops by 1.6x in 2017.

But desktop PC shipments did fall below 100 million in 2017, and IDC expects the decline in desktop shipments to continue in the coming years.

The research firm does expect to see modest growth in notebook sales over the next 5 years, and somewhat better growth in the detachable tablet space where 2-in-1 devices like the Microsoft Surface Pro live.

But overall IDC estimates that total PC shipments (including notebooks, desktops, detachables, and slate PCs) will fall from 423.2 million in 2017 to 385.7 million by 2022.

Does this mean people are replacing PCs with smartphones and other forms of computing devices? Not necessarily… but it could be a sign that some folks aren’t replacing their existing PCs as often as they used to, and one reason for that could be an increased reliance on phones for many of the things we used to use a PC for.

Then again, smartphone sales slumped for the first time in Q4, 2017… so maybe people just aren’t upgrading any of their devices as often as they had been previously.

Personal Computing Device Forecast, 2017-2022 (shipments in millions)
Product Category2017 Shipments2017 Share2022 Shipments*2022 Share*2017-2022 CAGR*
Desktop + DT & Datacenter Workstation97.823.1%86.022.3%-2.5%
Notebook + Mobile Workstation161.638.2%162.242.1%0.1%
Detachable Tablet21.95.2%34.69.0%9.6%
Slate Tablet141.833.5%102.926.7%-6.2%
Grand Total423.2100.0%385.7100.0%-1.8%
 
Traditional PC259.461.3%248.364.4%-0.9%
Traditional PC + Detachable281.366.5%282.973.3%0.1%
Total Tablet (Slate + Detachable)163.838.7%137.535.6%-3.4%
Source: IDC Worldwide Quarterly Personal Computing Device Tracker, February 28, 2018

via The Register

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25 replies on “IDC: Desktop PC shipments fell to less than 100 million in 2017”

  1. I just bought a 13.3 inch Chromebook for under $200. No need for a detachable screen. Between that, my $50 Amazon Kindle Fire tablet and my work smartphone, I can do everything I need without a WinTel desktop PC.

  2. Just under 100 million unit sales? Still looks like a huge market to me. I remember the days when I replaced my PC every 3-4 years. The difference in the hardware over that time was staggering. Not so much anymore. I replaced my PC about 2 years ago and have no idea when I will need to replace it again. I get that a lot of people can get by without a desktop but those of us who do design work, use Photoshop, edit video, etc., a laptop (regardless of how powerful it is) just isn’t a desktop replacement.

    1. The “difference in hardware over that time” change is what I was referencing by saying the technology has matured. If you think of it in human terms, there’s a lot of difference between a 3-year-old and a five-year-old, but not so much a 23-year-old and 25-year-old and even less a 53-year-old and 55-year-old. Needing to replace a computer every 2-4 years is clearly a thing of the past.

      But I don’t get your comment on a laptop cannot be a desktop replacement. Do you need more than two monitors (or need two larger monitors)? Just what is it a high end laptop cannot do?

      1. Think ergonomics to understand why a laptop cannot be a desktop replacement.

        1. Why? I use a USB keyboard (an ergonomic one at that). That keyboard and the main screen sits in the same position as when they were connected to my old desktop. I do have to raise up the laptop so that its screen is at a proper level, but that’s not hard to do.

          1. From the perspective of the hard core/long time desktop user/worker it’s kind of primitive/cumbersome to move basic hardware around like that. To this group of users, having a computer on the same spot for years in a work environment is as natural as having a fridge in the same spot for years in a kitchen.
            I’m working from home on a pc, and I’d like to do that on something more solid than a laptop that’s designed to have qualities that don’t apply in my situation.

          2. I don’t need a second monitor, I don’t need a computer with a battery when there’s a wall socket nearby, I don’t need hardware that has to be raised up, I don’t need a second keyboard, I don’t need a type of computer that’s designed from scratch to be portable when I know I’m going to use it in the same spot all the time. For that use, there’s the desktop PC.
            I like and use laptops and I see their qualities, but for keeping my data on the move, I just use USB-sticks or Google Drive.
            See it like this: I don’t need a racing bicycle when I only like to cruise around enjoying a flat landscape.
            A desktop computer is good for one purpose, a laptop is good for another purpose.
            Yes, it’s easier to use a laptop as a desktop pc rather than the other way around, but this is done with compromises -as I described above.
            The only situation where I could see myself using a laptop as a desktop pc, is if I -for some reason- would own only one computer, and it would happen to be a laptop.
            Hope I’m clear now.

          3. Whatever, this is getting pointless. You mentioned ergonomics and then couldn’t support that answer. The rest has been a waste of time. Seriously, if you don’t use a UPS then you don’t use a computer for anything important. But the simple answer is you personally don’t want a laptop. That though wasn’t even worth a response. No one was suggesting forcing you to buy one.

          4. If you care to read, you can see that I told you that I have more than one laptop and that I use them, that I like them and that I see their qualities. I probably use them in a different way than you, which seems hard for you to fathom. Funnily in your first reaction it was you yourself that already proved I was right about ergonomics when you admitted to buying a USB keyboard, so the support came from yourself. I should have pointed you to that right away, instead of indeed wasting my time after that. You’re probably as stuck in your opinions about UPS as you are about laptops, so I won’t even go to the length of explaining why you’re wrong there. Sweet dreams.

          5. Apparently you cannot even understand what “whatever” means. It means I consider this discussion with you pointless. Laptops can substitute for desktops for most people, end of story. Nothing you have said indicates otherwise.

  3. I’m shocked that Desktop unit sales are anywhere near laptops. I’ve toyed with the idea of a desktop PC a few times over the last 10 years or so… but even the thought of a large battery backup, not to mention the lack of all the useful wireless options, the ball/chain aspect… just doesn’t seem worthwhile.

    On the question of total sales of computing devices in general. Speaking for myself of course, I often see the upgrade path as frightening. Android hasn’t done much in terms of privacy protections, muultitasking, general usefulness while adding bloat, Windows turned into a data-mining machine, units with minimal ports/expansion on the Mac side, enemic storage… etc.

    Just seems that the industry is shooting itself in the foot in this mad, agenda-driven push toward the cloud to collect and distribute the behaviors of their customer. Very little, for users like myself, that inspires an upgrade. I’ve switched over to Linux (happy and at peace now) because I’m terrified of what the indsutry has become and how much more oppressive it will become.

  4. I assume this statistic is strictly for pre-built brand name desktop systems. That would exclude all built-to-order systems assembled by retail computer stores, end user builds, and corporate builds? That’s probably why this segment looks so much smaller than laptops. Laptops you pretty much have to buy prebuilt.

    1. Of course the build and configure-to-order PCs are included. That’s how most PCs are sold these days, in the retail and corporate segments, certainly by companies like Dell and Lenovo. The shipment figures would be meaningless without them included. (By the way, laptops are just as much build and configure to order too, these days.)

      End user builds are not included, obviously, since no PC unit is shipped, just parts from all over the place, but that market is much smaller than you seem to think it is. It’s certainly not the difference between desktops and laptops. Laptops have overtaken desktops (a) because they are far more versatile and (b) they’re now fast enough to do everything most people want to do on their computer, and do it well.

      1. I don’t agree. Today, if you wanna 32 GB of RAM, you buy 4 sticks and get your 32GB RAM.
        You can get even more, if you wish it.
        Laptops with 32GB will cost as used car, and some subbrends and brends don’t offer 32GB configurations at all (and not all of them could offer 32GB support, if you wish to replace RAM by yourself).
        Desktops with mere i5 are mid-ranged, but 4 physical cores in laptops almost always costs are fortune (and oft comes with “gaming” dedicated GPU, without asking you about do you want it or not).

  5. Ryzen 3 as good as 5 years old Intel. So why I should change my old intel for new CPU, pay for new mobo and for overpriced RAM?

    1. Only because you spend two to three times as much on your Intel CPU five years ago, I’m guessing. But sure, if you’re happy with what you have, there’s no reason to waste your money.

      1. It’s true enough. But to gain additional performance I should spend at least (!) $200 even today (two to three times to Ryzen 3 or something similar I spent on i7 a few years back). Also, it’s true enough for RAM…
        And GPU prices are crazy, due to mining hype. I got my 1050 Ti for $170 and when I bought it I thinked it’s pricey; now I think I got it cheap.

  6. Ahem, the reason desktop computer sales dropped drastically was because GPU prices have been insanely high, which made Ryzen builds redundant (no internal iGPU).

    And SSD and HDD prices also increased by 15% if I recall correctly.
    And lastly but most importantly memory prices, especially DDR4, went through the roof.

    This meant it was difficult to upgrade an older PC, and practically impossible/expensive to build a new one. I expect things to improve in Late 2018…. but I doubt the market will be as healthy as Early 2016. Maybe/Probably 2019.

    1. RAM prices almost double since 2016. pcpartpicker trends prices on memory can be used as trusted source.
      The one thing is good – AMD with Ryzen refresh kicks Intel, so now we have Core i3-8100 with 4 physical cores.

    2. It’s not the GPU market. Intel owns 70% of the GPU market (i.e. integrated graphics) and when you take into account the sales of separate aftermarket graphics cards, it’s an even higher percentage of desktop sales that carry integrated graphics. In any case, the GPU prices you’re talking about are mostly being driven by third party sellers in retail. Graphics card prices for OEMs are up a little, but only because of the tight supply of memory chips.

      Remember, we’re taking PC shipments here, not PC parts. They are different markets, and the pre-built market is still far larger than the build-you-own, for obvious reasons.

  7. I buy laptops now because you get a second screen and built-in UPS that doesn’t beep in the middle of the night waking you up! Also, it’s battery last longer than a UPS.

    But as to buying frequency, it’s IMHO largely due to computers having matured, and also the ability to get a speed boost by buying an SSD. I replaced my last desktop with a notebook not because it was slow, but because it started acting flaky after many years of service.

  8. Desktops are a victim of their own success. I have a particular scientific application for my PC that I’ve used for decades. Back in the days of DOS, I would start my analyses before bed and wake up the next morning to see the results. It was always worth it to upgrade to a new machine as soon as new processors were released. When the Pentium 4 was released, I could take a bathroom break and come back to see results. Fast-forward to the release of the first Core i7s, and tasks that took hours are now instantaneous. I’m still rocking my 9 year old Core i7-920 because for most of what I do, additional processing power would be superfluous. I’ll bet this is true for most non-gamers.

    The organization I work for upgrades employees’ PCs every three years under what they call a “currency” program. Last year perfectly good Sandy Bridge i7s were replaced with 7th generation i7s. The old machines were offered back to employees for $100. Perfectly good corporate surplus (recent i5s and i7s) are all over eBay dirt cheap. These are high quality, well-built computers from the top vendors. For non-gamers, these computers are perfectly fine.

  9. Not surprising. Computing resources are slowly being dispersed around the house — into smart speakers, smart TVs, appliances, cars, phones — with the rest being pushed up to the cloud. A lot of the stuff you can do on your phone today, you couldn’t even do on your typical home PC set up ten years ago. For example, streaming a movies required you to rip DVDs or Blu Rays, have massive amounts of local storage, and a processor powerful enough to play them. These days? Download the Netflix app onto your smartphone.

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