2013 will be the worst year ever for PCs, says IDC

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IDC said to expect PC shipments to fall by 10.1 percent this year, worse even then its earlier projection of a 9.7 percent drop. The analysts call it “by far the most severe yearly contraction on record.”

The decline is more than double last year’s. In 2012, IDC said that PC shipments dropped 4 percent.

IDC chalks up the declines to the shift toward using tablets more often. People are still using desktop and laptop PCs, but because they use them less often than they once did, people are putting off the decision to upgrade to a new computer.

The future is pretty bleak too. IDC expects shipments to continue to be negative until 2017 when they might start growing again. Still, in 2017 IDC expects shipments of desktops and laptop PCs to just pass 300 million worldwide -- that barely beats volumes from way back in 2008.

Business users saved the PC market during the year, not a good sign given the importance of consumer products in the overall tech landscape. Shipments to the commercial market were down 5 percent in 2013, compared to a drop of 15 percent for consumers, IDC said. Businesses were replacing Windows XP machines before support for those systems ends next year and commercial operations are seeing less impact from tablets, IDC said. The declines were steep across the board in both developed and emerging economies.

These kinds of reports reiterate how much trouble Microsoft is in as it tries to transition to this new reality. Most often, people are buying iPads when they decide to use a tablet instead of a PC. The company has to do better at encouraging users -- primarily consumers -- to buy its tablets or it risks ceding its dominant position in the computer market. IDC predicts that sales of Windows tablets will grow from 7.5 million this year to more than 39 million by 2017, but those tablets would make up only about 10% of the tablet-plus-PC market, says the research firm.

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