The PC market will "bottom out" this year and will have to wait for two years to return to growth, Gartner has predicted.
The market watcher is forecasting that global unit shipments in 2016 will drop eight per cent to 265 million. This will include 216 million shipments of traditional notebooks and desktops - down 11.5 per cent year on year - in addition to 49 million shipments in the premium ultramobiles segment, representing an increase of five million units.
Next year Gartner is forecasting that there will be 205 shipments worldwide of traditional PC form factors, and 61 million in the premium ultramobiles sector. This will mean the overall PC market remains flat, with an overall total of 266 million units shipped.
The following year the market will return to a modest three per cent increase, with global PC shipments coming in 274 million, the research house has predicted. In 2018 desktop and notebook sales will continue to slide, with shipments dropping to 199 million. But the ultramobiles space will see another year of rapid expansion, growing 23 per cent to a total of 75 million units shipped.
Gartner claimed that this year could be something of a nadir for the PC space, as the "installed base bottoms out and replacement cycle extensions halt". But next year might also bring its share of pain, particularly in a western European market shrouded in the uncertainty caused by the Brexit vote.
Research director Ranjit Atwal said: "Device vendors are mitigating the currency depreciation of the pound in two ways - first, they are taking advantage of the likelihood of a single-digit decline in PC component costs in 2016. Second, they will ‘de-feature' their PCs to keep prices down. With these changes, Gartner expects PC prices in the UK to increase by less than 10 per cent in 2017."
If the PC market is to achieve the forecast flat performance in 2017, Atwal stressed that the B2B sector will need to prop up the flagging consumer sector.
"The inventory of Windows 8 PCs should have been cleared, and large businesses in mature markets are now looking to move to Windows 10 through 2018," said Atwal. "In addition, more affordable hardware and increasingly available virtual reality content (such as games, stories and other entertainment) will enable consumer PC buyers to upgrade in order to experience immersive offerings."
Elsewhere in the device market, basic shipments of basic ultramobiles are projected to fall from a total of 196 million last year to 173 million in 2018. The market will contract both this year and next, before plateauing in 2018. Meanwhile the mobile phone space will remain stable between 2015 and 2018, with annual shipments hovering near the1.9 billion mark.
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