PC Shipments Expected to Decline

Annual shipments of desktop computers, notebooks, and tablets are expected to fall to 418 million units in 2021, a 0.8% drop from 2016.
Sean AlloccaFebruary 27, 2017
PC Shipments Expected to Decline

Annual shipments of personal computing devices are expected to decline slightly over the next five years as manufacturers continue to combat the recent surge of smartphones into the marketplace, according to the consulting firm International Data Corporation.

The global PC industry, which includes the sales of desktop computers, notebooks, and tablets, is expected to top 418 million units shipped in 2021, a 0.8% decrease from the 435 million units shipped in 2016. Data from IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly PC Device Tracker report show projections will slightly, but steadily, decrease over the next five years, especially in emerging markets.

The decreases are nothing new. Global shipments of traditional PCs, excluding tablets, have flagged since 2012 when the rise of smartphones began to gobble market share. The 260 million traditional PC units sold in 2016 slipped 5.7% year-over-year. But there may be light at the end of the tunnel. Some experts believe that recent results show a trend reversal on the horizon.

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“The contraction in traditional PC shipments experienced over the past five years finally appears to be giving way as users move to update systems,” said program vice president Loren Loverde. “We have a good opportunity for traditional PC growth in commercial markets, while the consumer segment should also improve as it feels less pressure from slowing phone and tablet markets.”

Researchers believe notebooks will provide users with a more mobile experience and become the device of choice by 2021. Notebooks that combine the mobility of a tablet with the content-creation abilities of a desktop are expected to dominate the marketplace over the next few years.

“Continued innovations should lead notebooks to take a higher share in the overall personal computing landscape,” IDC said. The firm expects notebooks to account for 39% of overall personal computing devices by 2021.


While notebooks might be the wave of the near-term, tablets were the preferred computing device for consumers in 2016. Both traditional “slate” tablets, like the iPad, or “detachable” devices that attach to a keyboard, accounted for 40.4% of the total computing device market. Notebooks represented 36%, while traditional desktops accounted for only 23.8%.

“As the tablet market works through the challenges of a maturing user base, the notebook ecosystem has seen success in assimilating a more mobile experience to the form factor while retaining its inherent superiority in the content-creation arena, which remains critical for commercial buyers,” said IDC research manager Jay Chou.

Stronger sales in mobile devices will likely offset losses in more traditional devices in the near term, keeping the overall marketplace relatively stable, Chou said.

Shipments of innovative detachable tablets are expected to more than double in the next five years, while shipments of mature devices like traditional desktop PCs and slate tablets will likely weaken.