News about conventional PC sales continues to get worse by the month. Analyst firm IDC revised its 2013 forecast to say sales of conventional notebook and desktop computers will fall by at least 10 percent. Another analyst firm, IHS, reports notebook display orders by PC vendors will fall by at least 23 percent in 2013 and the expectation is for further declines in 2014.
Simply put, the PC numbers are not good, except in one place – the channel, where notebook computer sales have already climbed 14.3 percent, according to data compiled by the Global Technology Distribution Council (GTDC). Desktop computers sales are climbing, too, but only at the rate of 5.4 percent.
Paraphrasing Mark Twain’s famous quote, CEO Tim Curran told the annual gathering of channel and distribution executives at the GTDC Summit that the death of the PC is greatly exaggerated. Not only are PC shipments through distribution to the channel healthy but continuing to climb.
These numbers stand in stark contrast to the analyst firms forecast. And, admittedly, Curran says, the growth numbers aren’t nearly as robust as those of tablets, which is climbing at a rate of 53 percent. But up 14.5 percent compared to the forecast of a 10 percent decline is pretty good.
What gives? Well, it’s about who’s buying.
Yes, notebook and desktop computers are getting hit hard by the transition to tablets and smartphones. Mobile devices are already the preferred Internet access point for most users. And the onslaught of business-class devices is making tablets and mid-sized smartphones more appealing.
The migration away from conventional PCs is mostly in the consumer side of the market. Consumers are extending the lives of the notebook and desktop computers to augment the utility of their mobile devices. They are more apt to spend money on new and multiple mobile devices than they are on thick clients.
Businesses, on the other hand, still need PCs. While many businesses have embraced BYOD (bring your own device) trend, they still have notebooks and desktops for their office and mobile workers. Tablets are interesting devices, but most still don’t have the horsepower to complete many business tasks.
Solution providers tell Channelnomics they’re seeing this same trend. Businesses are buying conventional PCs, refreshing their aging fleets and expanding their resources. Microsoft discontinuing support for Windows XP in April 2014 is motivating many businesses to upgrade.
Where businesses haven’t found a true need is for touch-enabled PCs. Most PC vendors have and continue to add notebooks, desktops and all-in-one PCs with touch-interfaces to take advantage of the Windows 8 operating system. Thus far, touch seems like overkill to businesses. That’s not stopping vendors like Lenovo, which believe buying touch today is future-proofing options.
Whether the channel can stave off PC’s extinction is something to monitor. Curran and many vendors believe the PC will remain an indispensable business device despite the growth of tablets and smartphones. For now, the channel is helping at least part of the PC market to defy gravity.