For the First Time in 11 Years, PC Shipments Will Fall

After a long time of constant rise in sales, the market slows down

If it hadn’t been for all the hype that Intel and its OEMs raised about ultrabooks, 2012 may not have become such a letdown, but the expectations created during CES 2012 and the rest of the first two quarters could only go two ways.

It might not have been so bad if only ultrabooks became a disappointment, even if they did account for about half of all the advertising on the PC market this year.

Certainly, seeing the estimates get cut by more than half was painful, but ultrabooks are, in the end, only one PC category, just barely out of startup stage.

Alas, the personal computer market itself, as a whole, went downhill, as prospective buyers turned to tablets and other portable consumer electronics.

The result is the first occasion, after 11 years, when PC shipments, for the entire year, will be lower than the year before.

Granted, this is still just an estimate, and a chance remains for some sort of rebound to take place in the remaining quarter, due to Windows 8.

It is unlikely though. Analyst firm IHS iSuppli foresees a 1.2% reduction, from 352.8 million in 2011 to 348.7 million.

The global economy continues to drag its feet, enough that it is offsetting whatever interest ultrabooks have managed to spark. The multitude of tablets and smartphones won't let notebooks have an easy time during the holiday season either.

“There was great hope through the first half that 2012 would prove to be a rebound year for the PC market,” said Craig Stice, senior principal analyst for computer systems at IHS.

“Now three quarters through the year, the usual boost from the back-to-school season appears to be a bust, and both AMD and Intel’s third-quarter outlooks appear to be flat to down. Optimism has vanished and turned to doubt, and the industry is now training its sights on 2013 to deliver the hoped-for rebound. All this is setting the PC market up for its first annual decline since the dot-com bust year of 2001.”

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