Solution providers selling PCs did have reason to cheer in 2013, according to a recent report from research firm IDC, which found that while global PC shipments tanked 10 percent in 2013 -- the worst decline in PC market history -- sales through the channel in the U.S. helped push domestic PC shipments up 5 percent.
Worldwide PC shipments totaled 82.2 million units in the fourth quarter of 2013, representing a year-on-year contraction of 5.6 percent and marking the sixth consecutive quarter of shipment decline, according to IDC's Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker report for 2013.
But what's more interesting about the research firm's year-end report is that it found positive growth for commercial PC sales in the U.S.
As consumers around the world flocked to tablets instead of PCs, U.S. commercial desktop and notebook sales were up 7 percent in the third quarter of 2013, up again 10 percent in the fourth quarter, and ended the year up 5 percent compared with the prior year.
Rajani Singh, senior research analyst for IDC's U.S. Quarterly PC Tracker and Personal Computing Programs, said the commercial PC market benefited from a continued economic recovery, new Windows 7 and 8.1 PC sales due to the sun setting on support for Windows XP, and large corporate PC refreshes.
Fred Moore, managing partner at Moore Computing, a St. Louis-based Hewlett-Packard SMB partner, said many of the company's customers are on an upgrade path.
"PC unit shipments seem to be on track. Our clients may have stretched upgrade cycles a little longer as the new PCs are very powerful and newer operating systems more stable. We have a very focused effort to get all clients out of XP by the product end of life [in April]. Our clients typically do not have internal IT managers so we are creating the awareness and moving clients to new systems," Moore wrote in an email to CRN.
In the U.S., Hewlett-Packard had a difficult fourth quarter, with PC shipments dropping 12.3 percent compared with fourth-quarter 2012, according to IDC. Lenovo and Samsung, meanwhile, achieved strong double-digit fourth-quarter growth in 2013, driven partly by a modest commercial uptick and the emergence of Chromebooks. Dell saw single-digit fourth-quarter U.S. growth in 2013, driven by large corporate refreshes in the enterprise, IDC's Singh said.
"Despite a dip in total [global] shipments, the U.S. market outperformed most other regions and the worldwide market as a whole for the fifth consecutive quarter, reflecting a relative degree of stabilization," Singh said.
In terms of U.S. direct vs. channel PC sales, about 14.5 percent of Lenovo's U.S. PC sales revenue, according to IDC, was generated through the channel in 2013, compared with about 20 percent to 25 percent generated from direct sales. For Dell, partners generated 23 percent of its U.S. PC revenue versus about 20 percent to 22 percent of sales via Dell direct, IDC said. And for U.S. revenue for HP PC sales, 25 percent was sold through the channel, with 12 percent direct.
For 2014, IDC's conservative estimates suggest low to single-digit growth for the PC market. But that number could climb easily, Singh said, depending on what portion of the Windows XP install base, estimated to be 32 percent of all commercial PCs, is earmarked to be upgraded in 2014.
PUBLISHED JAN. 14, 2014