In what’s become a familiar set of headlines in recent years, market research firms IDC and Gartner have put out a pair of press releases showing that PC shipments in the fourth quarter of 2018 were down from the same period a year earlier… and that overall PC shipments in 2018 were lower than in 2017.

What’s new are the explanations — although it’s always best to take those with a grain of salt, since they’re basically (highly) educated guesses.

In a nutshell, the firms suggest that shortages of Intel CPUs and mounting tensions between the US and China have led to supply chain issues and a dip in demand for Chinese products sold in the US.

Gartner also suggests holiday sales didn’t seem to have the same impact they have in previous years, and according to one Gartner analyst, they’re “no longer a major factor driving consumer demand for PCs.”

That said, it looks like sales to small and medium businesses were strong, as companies look to upgrade their PCs to Windows 10 machines ahead of the January, 2020 when Windows 7 will officially reach end of life status.

While IDC and Gartner’s exact numbers differ a bit, both seem to agree that Lenovo has overtaken HP as the top PC vendor in terms of shipments, which means that the top 5 now looks like this:

  • Lenovo
  • HP 
  • Dell
  • Apple
  • Acer
  • Everyone else

Lenovo and HP together have nearly 50 percent of the market, with Dell, Apple, and Acer coming in decent third, fourth, and fifth place.

It’s possible things could look different in 2019 as Intel addresses its CPU shortage issues… or as PC makers consider switching to AMD or ARM processors for at least some models.

It is interesting to note though, that while AMD made some big announcements at CES last week, there weren’t many new AMD-powered computers at the show, and I didn’t see a single new Windows-on-ARM devices… although CES isn’t as much of a computer show as it once was. We may have to wait for MWC (in February) or Computex (in May) to see what direction PC makers are truly planning to take in 2019.

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7 replies on “CPU shortages and trade wars contributing to declining PC shipments (according to IDC and Gartner)”

  1. Pretty much every machine with a Sandy Bridge (released in 2011) or later CPU is competent enough to do everything that a regular user needs to do, and smartphones are increasingly competent and pretty much everyone has one. If your computer isn’t broken and you’re not a gamer or someone with a certain niche job then the only reasons to upgrade revolve around secondary features — getting a thinner / lighter laptop, a less power-hungry system, getting Thunderbolt, something like that. There’s nothing forcing you to make a change.

  2. Aren’t IDC and Gartner the same two groups that predicted (based on “space-age” analytics technology) the demise of PCs a few years ago in favor of the mighty, trendy, tablet? At least they used a form of child-like analysis at the time. This time, it just sounds like they’re watching too much TV and feel compelled to make a statement.

    My take… I think people are spending much more for computing devices than they have before: expensive smartphones, budget tablets, wearables, smart speakers and finally… actual PCs. The standalone PC stands alone no more: it’s accompanied by a vast array of other devices (and dongles).

    I find it ironic that in the age of convergence – we’ve embraced (or have been forced to embrace) the opposite.

    Myself? I have an old laptop, two low-cost tablets (10″ Android, 8″ FireOS) and a modest smartphone. Together, these four devices get the job done better than a single PC. I’ll get around to replacing key devices only when it’s necessary because I (like many people) have a family (of devices) to $upport.

    Also… My old laptop has a nice 16:10 aspect ratio, 500gb storage, tons of ports, great keyboard (and a lightweight, privacy-respecting OS). I’d be lucky to find a modern equivalent with as many ports, massive storage, non-chiclet keyboard that doesn’t cost a small mortgage or isn’t spying on me. I may have to settle for spyware, 64gbs storage and dongles – when the time comes.

    1. That’s true, then they pulled a quick one and started combining tablets and PC’s together in their analysis with the reasoning “well, Apple does it”.

      Also I’m very shocked to see Apple doing so poorly. I know iPad sales slumped then plateaued, but nowhere near as bad as Android tablets have tanked. Yet, the biggest factor seems to be the MacBook Pro. These would actually sell really well, and put Apple in the lead (despite OS X only having a small percentage compared to Windows).

      I guess the market has spoken: and they do not want more expensive MacBook Pros, with smaller batteries, poor quality keyboard/parts, and lack of ports/dongle-life. Yet, Apple insists so they just pump a couple extra Billion into marketing to try and change the mindshare of the market (or more accurately; delude the public).

      At least, for now, there’s some competition left at the flagship level by the likes of Razer.

      1. They always get Apple numbers wrong. Sometimes by up to 15% making their report totally meaningless.
        Starting this quarter Apple will no longer publish Mac sales so we will no longer be able to see how wrong they are.

  3. I wonder if it’s just certain segments, because there seemingly was no shortage of sales during December.

    1. It is certain segments but notice how few whiskey lake ultrabooks were available for purchase this past holiday season? I am sure it was territory dependent, but for example only a few whiskey lake devices were on sale in canada, mostly hp, and some busines oriented dell devices. There was one asus with the new whiskey lake but availability was sketchy in various stores. Then there are the coffee lake 45w cpus, again available yes, but not in large quantities and newer models, like hp’s 15in spectre with the coffee lake is still only available in the US and on their site only, nothing on US best buy which is odd. Quite a few of the recent CES announcements have availability a bit later, march, april or even may for some, so I feel there is some shortage, especially in the mobile field. Will be interesting if any of the 9th gen devices also announced with have some shortages. No doubt intel’s releasing some of them without integrated is probably to make use of silicon that has errors/defects in the gpu but the cpu silicon is still fine. It allows previously binned silicon to be sold, thus increasing supply a bit. Most of the black friday sales here and for the holiday’s were of older kaby-lake-r devices and even kaby lake devices.

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