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PC Sales Fall 11% in Q2

Douglas A. McIntyre

The personal computer (PC) business, under siege for so long because of the rise of smartphone use, took another hit, according to industry research firm IDC. Global PC sales during the second quarter fell 11.7% from the same quarter in 2014. If the erosion continues, the world's largest manufacturers will need to reassess their businesses.

According to IDC:

Worldwide PC shipments totaled 66.1 million units in the second quarter of 2015 (2Q15), according to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker. This represented a year-on-year decline of -11.8%, about one percent below projections for the quarter.

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The slow PC shipments were largely anticipated as a result of stronger year-ago shipments relating to end of support for windows XP as well as channels reducing inventory ahead of the release of Windows 10. In addition, weaker or changing exchange rates for foreign currencies have effectively increased PC prices in many markets, thereby reducing purchasing power and also complicating investment planning.

The launch of new versions of Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Windows generally lifts PC sales. However, the most recent version of Windows was not popular with consumers. Users generally did not like Microsoft Windows 8, which might speed adoption of the next generation operating system. Nevertheless, the turn toward smartphones is relentless, and it has to sharply undermine the PC industry.

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Long-time PC manufacturing leader Lenovo kept its first place in market share:

Lenovo held onto the top position with shipments of 13.4 million units. Volume was up 1% from the prior quarter, but down -7.5% from the prior year. The vendor continued to aggressively court expansion outside of Asia/Pacific, leading to share gains in the U.S. and EMEA.

The other top manufacturers did not change position:

HP remained the number 2 vendor, but saw shipments decline -10.4% from a year ago. Slowing business demand and inventory control of entry notebooks contributed to the dip. While most of the slowdown was from outside of the U.S., the vendor also saw its U.S. volume contract nearly -7%.

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Dell came in at number 3, shipping more than 9.5 million units and registering a year-over-year decline of -8.7%. Strong results in 2Q14 contributed to a poor year-over-year comparison. Stronger performance in Asia/Pacific and EMEA were offset by slower growth in the U.S.

Apple continued to outperform other vendors, with growth of 16.1% globally. The vendor has largely avoided the price competition affecting other players and may be benefitting from some of the uncertainty around the launch of Windows 10, along with refreshed products like the 12-inch MacBook and a relative concentration of shipments in the U.S.

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Acer continued to see growth in Chromebooks with more models introduced. However, the vendor also struggled with the larger pullback in the market, particularly in EMEA where it had seen a rebound in mid-2014. The vendor ended 2Q14 with a volume of 4.33 million, a significant decline from the prior quarter and year ago volumes.

Interestingly, while PC sales are essential to Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ), they are barely an important line item for Apple Inc. (AAPL), despite the Mac's success. In the most recently reported quarter, Apple numbers showed that Mac revenue was only $5.6 billion of the company's total revenue of $58 billion.

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A falling tide may pull down all boats. But depending on the company, some boats are more important than others.

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