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2016 marked the fifth straight year of declining PC shipments worldwide

Dell XPS 13
Dell XPS 13

According to the latest numbers from both Gartner and IDC, the continuing slow decline of worldwide PC shipments has just crossed a pretty significant milestone. Specifically, PC shipments worldwide were down by between 5.7% and 6.2% in 2016, making it the fifth consecutive year of declines in the industry.

Gartner and IDC differ slightly on exact numbers because of how each firm counts shipments, but both are in agreement on the overall decline. For its part, Gartner posits that the PC market will continue to stagnate, but growth opportunities within the market present themselves in business, gaming and the "engaged PC user market." IDC, on the other hand, says that it expects "market stabilization, and even some recovery" as contraction starts to ease.

The total number of shipments for 2016 hovered somewhere between 260 and 270 million units, depending on whether you go with Gartner's or IDC's numbers. Of those, Lenovo, HP, and Dell took the top 3 vendor spots, respectively. Curiously, while the whole of the market was down for 2016, each of the top 3 vendors saw slight growth in the 4th quarter compared to the same period a year ago.

For more, be sure to check out the full reports from Gartner and IDC.

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the Editor in Chief for Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl. Got a hot tip? Send it to daniel.thorp-lancaster@futurenet.com.

77 Comments
  • Good thing Nadella abandoned Mobile to concentrate on the declining PC market.
  • .
  • He didn't abandoned it -_- comments like these are so dumb. The mobile market for MS isn't even on hold but instead research and development is really taking its time. It'll come and it'll be badass
  • It will come too late. Nobody will switch to a surface phone even if it can fly. People are addicted to Snapchat and new startup apps. They will stay where the apps are. Instead of spending 26 billion on buying one thing they could have payed the whole ios and android top 100 of developers and the top 5 of banks in each and every country to get apps. Plus, let startups get 100% income through the Store for the first 3 years. That would - together with an excellent phone and marketing campaign - instantly guarantee major succes.
    It's so easy. So difficult for Nadella.
  • Thank goodness you're not in charge of the MS cash, you have no idea.
  • Come with arguments. You and Nadella don't understand that the movement is mobile to anything else. And not desktop to anything else. They who own the mobile space will instantly attract consumers starting other products and services. This will lead to Google and Apple seriously disturbing Microsoft enterprise stronghold in the future.
    Also, this will give new Microsoft products like the HoloLens zero chance. Apple, Google or Amazon will take that space over by the time HoloLens is matured.
  • If you understand better than Nadella, then Microsoft should be knocking down your door to be their new CEO. And why is it that Microsoft getting into the phone market will be impossible, but Google and Apple getting into the enterprise is an absolute certianty? Both Google and Apple have been trying for years to have enterprise representation. Apple had their server, which they ended up scrapping because no company used them. The iPhone has been out for 10 years now, and the enterprise has not switched to PCs to iPhones. Google has some place in the enterprise with Google Docs, but over and over again we hear about how Google got a win over Office in the enterprise, one for that company a few months later to switch to Office365. Microsoft and phones are more or less dead, but to think that a Microsoft phone cannot make a comeback while Google and Apple can claim the enterprise is as unlikely and to claim that it will happen shows that you are the one that does not understand the movement.
  • >Thank goodness you're not in charge of the MS cash, you have no idea. Maybe it's you who has no idea. The Market speaks what people want, with Windows Phone/Windows 10 Mobile controlling 0.3% of the market there is ONLY one way to recover it. New Phones, current apps and marketing will give it a chance.  When Widnows Phone came out, Microsoft dumpped a lot of cash to get the top 25 apps and paid for it, most of these apps were never updated and a good % are gone now. The worst thing Microsoft could of done to KEEP the marketshare is NOTHING but, it's exactly what they did. If they did the bear min, keeping the big carrers with 3 models (low end, Mid line and high end) and did a few ads here and there, they would of kept up their 3-5% but, day by day apps drop, I see for every one app that comes, 5 go away. It is too late, they did nothing, went from 3 to 5% and now after 3 years of nothing, they are down to 0.3, I think Amazon devices are higher.... Anyway you look at it, unless Microsoft dumps billions into it, it will die a slow death and that is really sad, as it IS the nicest phone OS out there....
  • There is nothing Microsoft can do with Windows Mobile to make it popular. People just don't like it. Even if they had app parity, it wouldn't help. It is probably impossible at this point, but they would need a completely new strategy and interface. The Windows Phone 7/Windows 8 thing doesn't seem to be compelling to consumers.
  • "Even if they had app parity, it wouldn't help. "   I don't agree with this.  I know of several in my family alone that likes Windows Mobile more than their current Andriod OS.  They only switched because of apps and because Microsoft also had their apps on Android.  And I don't fault them, they needed the apps more than I did.
  • Where is your data that "people just don't like it"? My admittedly anecdotal evidence shows me that the main put off about Windows Mobile is tge lack of access to an application tgat is important to the buyer. I've watched people consider it, only to see that their bank doesn't have an app. My friend went back to Android because Weight Watchers isn't available on Windows.
  • Just the sales numbers alone since the beginning point to people not being that enamored with it. When WP7 was released, the app gap wasn't that big and even Android had quite a gap to overcome. Microsoft was pushing WP hard, there were tons of ads and quite a few devices to choose from on each carrier. People just didn't choose them. WP8 also had some heavy marketing and push by Nokia. They even sold quite a few L520 phones and could have had some real momentum through word of mouth. Also those people then would have upgraded to the newer phones they put out(L730, L830, etc). They didn't. Those phones all flopped and Nokia was done. People just didn't like Windows phone enough. If people really liked WP7, they would have bought them, continued to buy them and it would have grown and had momentum to bring more apps. The lack of apps is a symptom, not the cause. Windows Phone just wasn't compelling enough to drive growth. A few friends who like it didn't translate into mass sales, because the masses didn't care for it.
  • That's not data. Those are bias tinged extrapolations of data. Google's absence was the original app gap, so there were troubles in that arena from the start. Smartphones were relatively new with the competition entrenched. Slow growth was the only reasonable expectation and it was happening. The corporate miscues seemed to always reverse any gains. That "people just don't like it" is your personal crusade, but there is nothing to single that out as the reason for the struggles.
  • It never hit more than 3.5% market share worldwide, even after 5 years of being pushed by Microsoft and then Nokia. That isn't growth, especially when that 3.5% only consisted of the cheapest phone Nokia could make. None of the high end phones ever sold well. You can blame it on anything you want, but the bottom line is, Windows Phone was not compelling enough to sell and thus drive growth and developer interest. The app gap was just a symptom of that. WP7 was terrible at launch. If you need specifics why, then: 1. Rigid and Polarizing UI
    In Microsoft's desire to become Apple, they created this UI and didn't even allow the manufacturers to update it, let alone consumers. If you don't like the UI, too bad. Not giving manufacturers control was probably the biggest blunder. They are not going to be as excited about a device that doesn't have their spin on it and aren't going to push it as hard. They at least could have given it a subdued UI like the iPhone. 2. Massively missing features
    Android was pretty crappy at the time performance wise. If Microsoft had a well performing platform with a decent feature set, it could have capitalized on it. Instead, WP7 was missing major features and again, manufacturers had no ability to add missing features or innovate with new features. Again, they were not excited about a device they couldn't put their spin on and differentiate. Carriers also couldn't do anything and they were the gate keepers to the market. Making them happy was very important. Android didn't have these problems. Samsung was free to add all the dumb features they wanted. Those dumb features gave us the Galaxy S. They couldn't do that with WP7. 3. Poor hardware support
    This one is easy. Windows Phone didn't support new hardware. The spec sheets lagged well behind the Androids of the day, even if it performed better in actual use. These three huge issues prevented people from choosing Windows Phone and created the app gap. Again, the app gap is a symptom of Microsoft's sub par platform. Not the cause. Microsoft never addressed any of these issues with the reboots.
  • ​None of that definitively points to a mass attitude of "people just don't like it".  Most sound like personal grudges. ​1.  What can you do to customize iPhone?  Also, take a look at MOST people's Android phones - they aren't customizing as much as you think they are. This seems like a personal beef you have. The aesthetics also aren't as polarizing as you think they are. Neither of us have access to any focus groups or marketing research to make that call.  It's a subjective thing, and not something where stating an opinion as fact really works.   ​2.  There were missing features and there were differentiating features...many of which they've now abandoned, for some reason. These missing features, in my opinion, are not what kept the bulk of the users away from Windows.  It may have affected the journalists covering it, having a secondary effect, but most people don't have any idea all of capabilities of a feature phone, let alone a smart phone.  They DO know if their bank works on a phone or if software they use for work, works on a phone.  I know a girl who's a waitress that geve up Windows because her work uses scheduling/calendar software that has apps for iDroid.  <---not a symptom...the catalyst. ​3.  Specs are specs. iPhone has had lower specs and does well.  If specs mattered, lower level Windows wouldn't have been the best selling and lower level Androids wouldn't dominate.  ​The bottom line is that there are MANY variables at play and to surmise it into a bumper sticker that "people just don't like it", isn't really great analysis.  The other point is that technology isn't static, so it's also a mistake to proclaim that nothing can be done.  With that kind of mindset, we would never see anything new and those on top would stay on top, forever.  We all know that isn't true. Again...the app gap is the front facing issue that most users know about and has an effect on their daily use.
  • You ignored my major point. Consumers don't care about customization. Some might. Manufacturers and carriers certainly do though. They proved this with Android. Every manufacturer added it's own UI and features to Android. Carriers were able to add their crap and even force it on the user. Microsoft not catering to them was a huge mistake. Why would they push Microsoft's product when they can push their own product that they built on Android? When a manufacturer takes Android and puts their own UI and features into it, it is no longer Google's. They have now made it their own unique product and they treat it that way. They don't get this with Windows. It is always Microsoft's, they can never differentiate their device. Specs do matter. When you looked at a L900 next to a GS3, the GS3 had an HD display, the newest quad or dual core CPU and up to 2GB of RAM. The 900 was only 480p with 512kb of RAM and an old single core processor. It made it easy for a salesman, who was already pre-dispositioned to the Galaxy S for the reasons stated above, to sell the GS3. Add in all the dumb features Samsung added to Android and marketing was easy. Microsoft was fighting uphill from the start and did nothing to fix these issues. Sure, all the low end phones combined sell the most, but not a single one outsells the Galaxy S. Having these high end phones also helps sell the mainstream just like Corvette and GT-R help Chevy and Nissan. The GS3 made Android what it is today because Google gave Samsung the tools they needed. Microsoft didn't. How do you expect Windows Phone to sell with all these issues and that is even before the app store is mentioned. That all strengthens my point. Windows Phone was not compelling for masses. It did not give the salesmen the tools required to sell it and as such, people didn't choose it.
  • I didn't miss your point. You utilize the shotgun approach, illuminating your intense grudge with Windows.  You say lots of OPINIONS and package them as FACTS.  Do you have a manufacturer CEO quote that mirrors your comments about customization?  Carriers don't care or they wouldn't enthusiastically push iPhone.  Do you have consumer research data that shows that specs were the deciding factor more than maybe 10-20% of phone sales?  Do you have ANY data other than conjecture and your own personal preferences to say that those preferences are universal?  The truth is that, again...there are a great many variables.  It's also still true that technology isn't static and that stating "there's no way" about anything shows an extreme bias.  ​Enjoy your weekend.  I know that your passionate hatred means that this back and forth will go on forever with you because you are convinced that your opinions are verified truth.
  • It is the facts. We are looking at the past. This story has been written. Google gave Samsung the tools they needed. Microsoft didn't. I have followed and loved Microsoft since Windows 95. It is a bummer that I have never been able to justify buying a Windows phone because of these glaring issues Microsoft never addressed. My passion is not from hate of Microsoft, it is the opposite. Sorry I am not going to fanboy and act like Microsoft can do no wrong. They did a ton wrong with Windows phone. A lack of apps is just a symptom of these mistakes. If Microsoft listened to you and this website, then they would never fix these issues. Maybe that is why they never did. I gave multiple, concise reasons why Windows Phone failed. You are right, there are many reasons why it failed, but I am quite sure these are the main ones. The fact is, it failed and it failed miserably. Wasn't even close. Just a lack of apps can't explain that and a couple people you know don't change that. If the masses liked Windows phone, they would have bought them and the app store would have grown to meet their needs. The masses overwhelmingly chose Android and iPhone and their app stores grew because of it. Apps are a symptom of success or failure, they are not the cause. Microsoft wasn't so late to the market that they couldn't have had an impact. They didn't have an impact because their software and as such, hardware, was not sufficient to drive sales. Facts.
  • Yeah, because the guys at MS who decided to spend BILLIONS on LinkedIn and Nokia really knocked it out of the park...
  • Those were two different sets of "guys" and the second set never liked the Nokia acquisition that the first set made, so it really never had a chance. This second set of guys likes their own LinkedIn acquisition and will support it with all of their might.
  •   There will not be any Surface "Phone" per se.  There will be a "category defining" device, and we will know when we will see it. 
    Maybe something with Windows-on-ARM. We really can't tell right now.     
  • @crise.
    Well said. MS should stop charging app developers. FULL STOP.
    So frustrated with the lack of mobile strategy.
  • 100% income, good idea...when Microsoft wanted to gain market share with Hyper-V they essentially made it free with your EA. Guess what they will be charging for starting with Server 2016????
  • Every dominant paradigm has its end and there are always those who think the status quo is status infinitum. They are always wrong.
  • The current app related Smartphone market is saturated and on the decline. And it didn't even reach a username of over 250million combined. Compared to 2.6 billion userBase od PCs.
  • He didn't abandoned it -_- comments like these are so dumb. The mobile market for MS isn't even on hold but instead research and development is really taking its time. It'll come and it'll be badass 
    So basically "coming soon" for the millionth time? This time it'll work for sure i bet..... /s 
  • >He didn't abandoned it -_- comments like these are so dumb. The mobile market for MS isn't even on hold but instead research and >development is really taking its time. It'll come and it'll be badass LOL, you MUST BE new here....look into the history of what Microsoft did when Windows Phone 7 came out and you can see why most people who have been here from the start know that THAT is not the case. It's not research, it's failure and they gave up
  • Updating Calendar tile needs research and development?
  • So Verizon is just a "temporary product supply issue"?!? Yeah, it's abandoned.
  • On Verizon maybe.
  •   ... and on cloud, Office, AI etc.  Share price double, some people seem to like the ways MS is going.   
  • Share prices are speculative, usually based on accounting which laying off people and general cost cutting can make that all look good in the short term.
  • i dont think its dying, nope. Many people dont feel the urge to update their PCs. New HW isnt significantly faster then the previouse generations 
    (see INTEL) to waste money on it
  • Agreed.  Today's computers are so efficient and high powered, it's not necessary for people to upgrade their PC's every couple years when all they do is browse the internet and "like" facebook posts.
  • Yup. I used to get a new computer about every two years. My current one is creeping up on five years and runs everything I throw at it. The only things a new machine have that are making me itchy are the touch screen and the detachable 2-1 flexibility.
  • Apple was really badly hit ! Surprising...
  • Shame they don't include 2in1s in PC stats. Even Surfacebook is classed as tablet. Lol. Nadella was spot on. MOBILES as they are now are about to die. Full Windows 10 mobile PCs are nearly here to replace Smartphones.
  • No, Nadella recognized it, but Steve Balmer was blind on both eyes.
  • What constitutes a "PC"? Are Laptops, 2-in-ones, and tablets (Win10) included in that?
  • Yes, if you mean x86 tablets (not iPad or Chromebook).  The Gartner report lists out what is included in their numbers. They say:  "Data includes desk-based PCs, notebook PCs and ultramobile premiums (such as Microsoft Surface), but not Chromebooks or iPads. "
  • Cool thanks!
  • Gartner includes 2 in 1 devices as PC's but IDC does not. They put something like the Surface Pro into a separate class with devices like the Pixel C and the iPad Pro. It's pretty dumb.
  • Chromebooks and iPads are nothing but phones with a huge screen
  • And in other pointless misleading news.....Peanutbutter is at an all new High Price.......How High will it go? lol Nothing like fudging the numbers a certain way to show a trend.....
  • And what makes you think the numbers from Gartner and IDC were fudged? - A sincere question
  • They should be pretty close but they are selectively targeting the information that their customers want. In other words, this data is useful for OEM's but it gives us less information for the overall platform market. I suspect that you would see a clear trend for an uptake in virtual machine usage as hardware sales decline. The same thing happened for servers. VDI usage is definitely on the rise. Their data also leaves out the custom PC market.
  • Thanks for bringing some clarity. But, their report as is can still be accurately interpeted as showing a particular trend, can it not? As in - worldwide shipments/purchasing of hardware pc is in decline. Is that not a true assessment? I don't see anywhere in their reports that they're suggesting that pc "use" is dying. However, that does seem to be the conclusion some in this comment section are trying to imply towards Gartner & IDC. Suggesting there's "fudging" going on is like putting words in the mouths of Gartner & IDC, imho.
  • In my opinion, the data does show a clear trend that indicate that OEM PC hardware sales are on the decline. However, there isn't enough information to develop a holistic correlation and there is nowhere near enough information to speculate on causation. The problem with using IDC and Gartner device shipments to analyze the health of Windows is that device shipments do not equate to a Windows license on a one to one basis. Nor are we able to ascertain how many PC sales have been nullified in favor of a smartphone or tablet. We also don't know how many Windows tablets are cannibalizing other Windows devices, traditional mobile tablets or both. I suspect that there are many reasons for the decline in OEM device sales but the presiding narrative that indicates that mobile devices are supplanting PC's is, in my opinion, overly simplistic. The same was said about mobile tablets at their peak of growth. Despite that, mobile tablet sales are trending down at an alarming rate. To explain that, they say that larger smartphones are cannibalizing tablets. While some of that may be true, the fact still remains that average screen size is well below 5 inches. When I see data like this, it tells me exactly what it is intended to. But without more data, correlation and causation are speculatory at best.
  • Very well articulated and I thank you for fleshing out the details for me. I concur with your conclusion....there can be no hard conclusions (regarding the overall health of windows) from these reports save that OEM pc hardware shipments are down.
  • Custom PC's I bet are rising.  
  • Safe assumption but it is still a relatively small market for what could be considered net new devices.
  • Gartner and IDC have been reporting these numbers for years and they are pretty transparent about their methods. Both are very valuable (regardless of whether or not some people "like" the data).
  • Nadella was a huge mistake...
  • I'm sure stock holders agree since the stock is 2.5 times higher per share than it was when he took control. /s
  • Fanboys living in their fanboy world. It's comical at this point.
  • To which one are you calling a fanboy?
  • In this specific instance, ivakara33. But in general many here. People who think Satya was a mistake based on their love for mobile. Don't get me wrong, I love an use the platform and have since day 1 (Windows SmartPhone devices many years ago. I have carried windows since the Motorola MPX200.) I just upgraded from a 950 to an XL. I get it, but mobile the way it is today will never happen. I look forward to the future of Windows on devices of all shapes and sizes. Satya is here to run a business. And... he is doing what he was hired to do, according to the share holders, quite well.
  •   PCs last longer theses days.
    They do not become obsolete as quickly as they did
    and they certainly last much longer than smartphones used to.   Windows 10 also works fine on many old machines, much better than W7. I installed W10 on a 10 year old Fujitsu notebook, it still works fine. 
    I would not want to work with this machine, 
    but for surfing and e-mail and occasional Office 365 use is actually is good enough 
    as long as you do not plan to write a book.  With all those Virtual "you name it" there might come a time when we will want more powerful PCs again.
       
  • This. My laptop lasted me 5 year and my current desktop does still fine after four years. Saying Nadella doomed the pc market is so bad its actually hilarious to read.
  • People build their own PCs nowadays. This isn't reflected in the figures
  • Exactly.
  • People DO build their own pcs in general, but I don't think it's the majority. Rather, I don't think we have hard data on that either way.
  • I bought a laptop last year to replace a desktop that was five years old. I only use my computer for emails, searches, shopping, and some social networking, so I can go years without thinking of buying a new computer because it can easily handle the workload placed on it. And I'm still using a laptop that has a Vista OS, and is....I forget, 10 years old?
    The point I'm trying to make is that the Average household doesn't need to upgrade that much and can go for years before buying again, so dropping sales isn't a surprise. And while I'm in the market for a new laptop to replace my old one, the decision to buy will mostly be one of price, since the old one is still doing its job just fine. So whether that purchase is this year or the next, is uncertain. I expect the market to keep dropping for some years yet until it plateau's
  • Blame smartphones for this, as 10 years ago in 2007 people didn't used their smartphones to read mail or go to instant messaging, for that they used a PC/laptop Remember MSN Messenger and Hotmail?  This was replaced with Facebook and Whatsapp.  Thats the end of the story.
  • I was using a Blackberry handheld in 2000 to read my email. I have never used WhatsApp. I shut down my Facebook account because of how little I used it. Smartphones have certainly had an impact on PC sales particularly in, "emerging markets". But many other factors play into this that are not included in device shipment metrics. Generalizations and simplistic narratives that confuse correlation with causation shouldn't be confused with analysis. For example, IDC leaves out device types that are, in fact, PC's because they use the form factor to determine what the device class is. VDI has been growing for server and workstation class use cases. If you can run multiple PC's on the same hardware, that obviously negates hardware purchases that may otherwise take place. The lack of innovation has directly affected consumer interest. And PC lifecycle has increased largely due to iterative performance gains that do not justify the added cost.
  • IDC leaves out things like Surface, but the Gartner report includes Surface like devices.
  • That is correct. The data is just data. I question IDC's methodology for device classification but there is no question that OEM PC hardware sales are on the decline. What we don't know is why. More than likely, the cause includes many factors that vary depending on the market. Either way, overly simplistic narratives and generalizations don't really help anyone.
  • https://youtu.be/YMmQmqD1HXU
  • It's because no one needs a new pc every year. Conversely, the phone market is not like this because phones break easily and people update them constantly each year. Also, a lot of the new laptops suck. My laptop from 2012 has more hardware features than the newest computers of today. Like I have a subwoofer, 2 headphones + 1 microphone, 4 USB, Blu Ray, ethernet, etc. Like I spent 700 for it. Today, a 1000 dollar computer doesn't even have all these features combined.
  • I was reading the other day that people are holding on to there smartphones longer now that they aren't subsidized by the phone companies anymore. I don't think it will be long before the phone industry starts seeing declines in phone sales. Apple has already started seeing declines in I phone sales
  • This is good news.  Carriers have been making a killing for trade-ins and selling second hand.
  • Plus computers are faster...my SSD based XPS is plenty quick yet around 2yrs old...before SSD, new computers were bought because the old one got too slow...
  • This doesn't surprise because it was about 5 years ago I sold my custom built pc and haven't had one since. I got bored of the pc. Even now the tablet/ smartphones are starting to bore me. I feel like everything moved too fast so now there's no wow moment anymore
  • Doesn't this mostly have to do with the fact that everyone has a computer and most times a tablet too? I mean how often do I need to update my laptop nowadays, I've got a three year old Toshiba that my wife uses, unless it breaks, it will suit her needs for another couple years. I have a gaming machine that I built myself, I won't ever buy a new PC, I will just upgrade parts as needed. This data is just confirming that the technology market has changed, they need to change what it means to have "high" pc sales. There needs to be a crazy leap forward in technology, and then there needs to be a cooking off period where that technology lowers in price, then MAYBE sales would pick up. Overall I just think these sales numbers are the new normal...
  • Growth of the segment has long since matured, but we're (my work) still using as many PCs as we always have. The hardware is orders of magnitude better than 10 years ago, able to last much longer without failure. In the Win10 free upgrade window, we took many 1st/2nd gen I series CPUs and even some Core Duos up to Win 10. A modest investment in an SSD and RAM bump made for a pretty effective upgrade.
  • Do they still not count PCs that become tablets in these figures?
  • Oh come on now. Let's do some research. Everyone. PC sales are NOT in decline. These companies unfortunately have a massive error in how they calculate their data. They DO NOT include 2 in 1s in their PC stats. They include those in Tablets and mobile. Now I would understand that if we we're talking Ipad/android tablets. They are NOT pcs. But Surface Pro, Lenovo Thinkpad etc etc all should be counted towards PC sales. But they aren't. Heck even SurfaceBook is counted in the tablet figures. Are they going to count full Windows 10 phones in Tablets and mobile???? Any device that runs full Windows 10 should be classed as a Personal Computer.