PCs Down for the First Time in Over a Decade

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According to iSuppli, it’s going to be a hard year for computer manufacturers. Everyone’s favorite market statistics group is reporting that 2012 will mark the first time since 2001 that the PC market shrank instead of grew, when you compare year-over-year periods. 

It’s taking many companies some getting used to. As the market recovers from the netbook surge – which, since they ran Windows (and the few that didn’t ran Linux), they counted in the PC statistics – it’s getting hit by the explosive growth in the tablet industry. And unlike netbooks, most tablets don’t get counted in the PC segments of the market.

Also worth mentioning is that many in the industry expected Ultrabooks – Intel’s response to flagging PC sales, inspired by Apple’s MacBook Air – to help lift things out of the doldrums. But it’s had almost no effect at all. Intel, who is often guily of overstating one metric or another, famously predicted earlier this year that Ultrabooks would comprise a whopping 40% of the mobile market by the start of 2013.

The real numbers paint a starkly different picture, with roughly 10 million Ultrabooks expected to sell by the end of this year, and only heading up to 25% of the mobile market by the time that 2015 rolls around.

Desktops, meanwhile, haven’t been quite so bleak – but only because they haven’t garnered nearly as much excitement over the last several years. Moreover, the increasing capabilities and solid designs of new all-in-ones have invigorated a stagnant market.

There are a couple of major obfuscating factors in all of this, and one is Windows 8. It’s still too soon to tell what effect that the upcoming operating system will have on the market, though it doesn’t look good. Businesses aren’t promising to skip this software release – unlike Vista – but more than a few are adopting a wait and see approach. 

Most consumers are likely unaware that a new version of Windows is around the corner. As we head into the holiday advertising blitz, and the imminent release of Microsoft’s Surface tablets, however, that will change, and many may decide to update their PCs as a result.

The other factor to consider is the iPad. Any analyst firm worth its salt will tell you that the iPad has negatively affect PC sales, selling into the approximate nine figures. With Apple releasing a new miniature version next week, and the updated iPad 4 just a few months later, it may be too much for the struggling PC market to bear.

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