Classroom computers

Mobility sells

Image: Stockfresh

24 September 2014

Niall Kitson portraitThe PC market took another hit this week with the news that Samsung is pulling its Ativ and Chromebook lines out of the European market. This comes only days after TechCentral reported that Toshiba would be refocusing its notebook business to cater for business. Add to this Sony’s ditching of its Vaio PC business and the outlook for the PC market looks bleak.

The past few years have seen a precipitous fall in shipments of laptops and desktops, and the arrival of Windows 8 and official discontinuation of Windows XP have not provided the expected bump in sales. According to forecasts from analyst firm Gartner the market for desktop and notebook PCs is expected to contract by a further 6.7% in 2014 to 276 million units shipped compared to 296 million in 2013.

Meanwhile, the mobile space is bouyant. Some 206 million tablets and 1.8 billion smartphones shipped in 2013 and this is expected to grow to 256 million tablets and 1.82 billion smartphones this year. So-called ‘hybrid devices’ combining a tablet with laptop-quality keyboard doubled shipments from almost 3 million in 2013 to 5.3 million in 2014.

Compared to PC sales, it’s obvious that the money is in smaller, cheaper devices that provide a comfortable user experience with tech that’s good enough to either usurp the traditional home PC or relegate it to more mundane tasks like word processing and book keeping.

But there is a trump card. Premium ‘ultrabooks’ are on the grow and are expected to ship 308 million units this year compared to 317 million in 2013.

Taken as a whole the message is ‘mobility sells’ but this has yet to be reflected in the distribution of market share.

According to figures from Statista for the second quarter of 2014 the top five PC brands are Lenovo (19.2%), HP (17.7%), Dell (13.3%), Acer (7.9%) and Asus (6.9%). Of these none could be said to have a convincing mobile presence. The remaining 35% of the market outside the big five would include Sony and Samsung, both of which are doing well in mobile. The only company to own both mobile and PC is Apple, although it rests firmly in the lower third of the market.

The same observation could be made about Samsung, Toshiba and Sony – all players with modest market share and no ecosystem to tie users in to. The departure of three name brands won’t see an increase in PC shipments – I think we’ll have to wait for Windows 9 to see a proper recovery – but their exit will reduce competition and offset any further contraction.

So less competition in a more modestly size desktop/netbook market is the way forward as mobile devices continue to take over the world. So who’s next on the chopping block?

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