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2013 Ends On High Note For PC Device Channel Sales

Kathy Kim
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While 2013 was a rough year for the PC market in general, this year marked strong growth for personal computing device sales through the channel, according to a new study.

According to the latest report by Port Washington, N.Y.-based market research firm The NPD Group, 14.4 million desktops, notebooks and tablets were sold through the U.S. commercial channel.

Compared to a 3.1 percent sales increase in 2012, this year's sales have shot up to a 25.4 percent increase, said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at The NPD Group. Primarily, the consumerization of IT within the education and government sectors has contributed to this growth, he said.

"There is a lot of talk that the commercial computing devices as a form factor are going away, but what we are seeing is the continued strength in different segments in commercial computing markets," said Baker. "Markets are looking for alternative ways to work as employees are more likely to bring in their own devices -- the same at home and the workplace."

[Related: CEOs Whitman And Dell Bullish On PC Sales Despite IDC Dismal Forecast ]

While Apple MacBook and iPad sales dropped this year, Google's Android tablets and Chromebooks increased. Chromebooks are normally priced between $199 and $299, an economical choice for educators in comparison to the higher costs of Apple iPads and MacBooks. Chromebooks have accounted for 21 percent of the 28.9 percent growth of notebooks, and it's been a compelling selling year to education institutions, said Baker.

"It seems like a logical and natural place for the Chromebook product's low cost, maintenance and the Google services that go along with it," said Baker. "Compared to the year before, sales growth was nonexistent for Chromebooks; they found the niche to grow in, and it will be a challenge to grow in 2014 in more significant [sales]."

According to The NPD Group, Windows notebooks showed no growth in 2012, while Windows desktops increased by nearly 10 percent in 2013. The lack of growth can be attributed to consumers shying away from purchasing products, said Baker.

"The switch from Windows 7 to Windows 8 has been a bit jarring to consumers and corporate IT folks, and some of the attributes on Windows 8 around touch, tiles and the modern UI haven't been appealing to corporate markets," said Baker. "We're waiting to see what Microsoft is going to do with this perceived challenge."

For Todd Swank, senior director of product marketing at Equus Computer, a Minneapolis-based systems builder, his Windows XP customers are preparing for the switch to Windows 7. In April, Microsoft will no longer be providing Windows XP support, said Swank.

"Microsoft is officially going to stop supporting the product, which means no more service updates and patches, and customers' PCs won't be protected after April 8," Swank said. "That has contributed to the uptake of strong PC sales primarily because their PCs are running on XP, and customers need to move to a current operating system like Windows 7 or 8."

As the market gets more competitive with differentiated and robust offerings from Apple, Google and Microsoft, 2014 will be even more valuable for distributors and resellers, said Swank.

"[With] the economy and stock market improving, [it] gives confidence to people to spend," said Swank. "Competitiveness keeps this game exciting to differentiate your products and offerings."


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