PC shipments have been declining in recent years. While smartphone shipments continue to rise, consumers and businesses are upgrading their desktop and notebook computers less frequently.

But according to research firm IDC, the PC market saw growth in the first quarter of 2017… for the first time in 5 years.

The analysts at rival firm Gartner see things differently though. In fact, Gartner reports there were fewer shipments in the last quarter than at any time since 2007.

There’s a simple explanation for the discrepancy, and it’s not just that neither company has 100% accurate shipment counts, since some companies don’t provide detailed numbers. It’s also that IDC and Gartner are counting different things as PCs.

For instance, IDC says a Chromebook is a personal computer, but Gartner does not. Gartner, meanwhile, says tablets can be PCs, but Chromebooks aren’t.

In that light, it makes sense that IDC’s growth figures would be higher: Chromebooks have been one of the few bright spots in the PC space in the past few years. While the total number of Chromebooks shipped each quarter is substantially lower than the number of Windows machines, Chromebook shipments have generally been on the upswing while the opposite is true for other types of notebooks and desktops.

All told, IDC says more than 60 million PCs were shipped in Q1,2017, representing a 0.6 percent increase over the same period in 2016.

Gartner says more than 62 million PCs were shipped… but that represents a 2.4 percent decrease from a year ago.

One thing both firms agree on is that Dell is the third-largest shipper of PCs at the moment, with Lenovo and HP duking it out for first and second place. But IDC has HP in first place, while Gartner says Lenovo is in the lead.

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15 replies on “IDC: PC shipments up for the first time in years, Gartner: nope”

  1. TLDR: Very slight growth in PC Market this quarter, mostly thanks to Chromebooks.

    Long version:
    I side with IDC on this one.
    There’s an argument to be made that Chromebooks are in fact PCs like desktops and laptops. They share the same form-factor and sometimes even the innards. And Chromebooks can run full Windows desktop OS.

    However, tablets are less like Chromebooks and laptops and more like phones.
    Case in point, the millions of 6 inch Android tablets out there.
    If we’re really going with a two category system of saying Phones and PCs, well then IDC is correct and Gartner isn’t.

    If one is thinking of the iPad, well, when comparing that to the Surface Pro… its like a comparison between a laptop and a phone.
    Or simply open a third category; and put all 7 inch Android tablets, iPads, and Chromebooks in there.
    Then we would see that the actual PC Market is modestly shrinking, whilst the “Tablet” Market is slowly increasing, and the Phone Market is booming.

  2. It makes me sad to hear that Chromebooks are on the uptick. The one I’m typing this comment on, while technically a top-tier Chromebook, has been a huge disappointment in almost every area. Literally everything that’s not “browse a website” that a Chromebook can technically do, it does so poorly that I regret ever buying the device. But apparently my opinion isn’t shared by all, if sales are going up.

    1. Well that’s the whole point of ChromeOS, and their simplicity allows them to be locked-down for the education market. I don’t think their purpose is to build the best laptop, but rather the best web services laptop. Did you buy your chromebook with your own dollars? If you did you should really change the OS.

      1. Sadly, even that option has turned sour for me. Crouton doesn’t work when I install it, and the cryptic errors don’t result in much help from my good pal Google.

    2. Put a full Linux onto it with Crouton and you will be able to run all of the desktop apps in paralell with ChromeOS.

      1. Sadly, even that option has turned sour for me. Crouton doesn’t work when I install it, and the cryptic errors don’t result in much help from my good pal Google.

    1. Chromebooks are at least 2 million units per year, and are still growing. I could see them becoming 10% of all PC sales within the next couple of years. Hopefully ARM systems will be able to break into the education market.

  3. “It’s also that IDC and Gartner are counting different things as PCs.

    For instance, IDC says a Chromebook is a personal computer, but Gartner does not. Gartner, meanwhile, says tablets can be PCs, but Chromebooks aren’t.”

    How about, if it’s a personal computer, it’s a PC? Then it’d include desktops, laptops, chromebooks (which are just laptops with a different OS), smartphones, tablets, and intel sticks.

    I really don’t get this arbitrary distinction, when they’re all *personal* computers.

    1. You’re absolutely right, manufacturers make money from selling hardware. If it has a screen and keyboard and is to large to put in your pocket then it’s a computer. The operating system does’t matter.

      P.S. When, if ever can a non-portable device not meant to be used with a screen or keyboard, (Echo, Google Home) be considered a computer

      1. ” and is to large to put in your pocket then it’s a computer.”

        Why would that matter? It’s a computer that’s personal, regardless of whether it fits in your pocket or not.

        Now Echo and Google Home are a lot more interesting to categorize, as they are generally used by a multitude of people, no? I’ve never interacted with one.

        1. If it fits in the pocket, that another class of device with a dedicated report. People that don’t agree can take the data from both.

          For me Chromebook, iPad Pro and various Android 2 in 1 are more likely to be sub-category of the PC class. Big display and keyboard at of the box (or expected), so it’s the same use.

          It’s even weirder for MS Windows 2 in 1, as those are so close to ultra-portable laptops.

    2. IDC and Gartner are market intelligence companies. Their free published reports are just summaries of a much more detailed breakdown of their research findings that are only available to subscribers, and subscriptions are in the thousands of dollars a year.

      And yes, the distinctions are extremely important if you’re a company that’s looking to invest big bucks into new products or services. The third-party product ecosystem for mobile devices (software, hardware, accessories, services, etc. etc.) is almost completely different to the third-party product ecosystem for laptops and PCs. Who needs a mouse for a mobile phone? Who wants screen protectors for a regular desktop monitor? Should I commission a mobile app for my website? And on, and on, and on.

      Given how different the computer marketplace looks today from just five years ago, you can easily see why those not-so-“arbitrary distinctions” matter.

  4. 62 million units sold. It may be a shrinking market but it is still a large market.

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