Q4 2018 PC shipments dip amid trade tensions, CPU shortages

PC shipments saw their biggest year-on-year dip since 2016 in Q4 2018, according to new reports issued by market research firms IDC and Gartner. According to both firms, worldwide PC shipments came in at around 68 million units during Q4, declining either 3.7 percent (IDC) or 4.3 percent (Gartner) year-over-year, depending on the methodology used (via ZDNet).

Both firms point to a shortage of CPUs and mounting trade tensions between the U.S. and China as causes for the decline. From IDC:

The ongoing economic tensions between China and the United States continue to create a lot of uncertainty in the business environment in China. As demand for Chinese products in the U.S. drops, this particularly impacts businesses of all sizes from the manufacturing sector in China, which, in turn, translates to a drop in IT purchases by these companies.As the U.S. PC market, especially the lower-end, continued to suffer from the ongoing shortfall of Intel CPUs, overall PC sales took a hit during the fourth quarter of 2018.

Looking forward, analysts for IDC expect China to see further declines throughout the year, with the effect spilling over into other countries if trade tensions continue to rise. As for the CPU shortage, supplies are expected to continue to be constrained in the first two quarters of 2019, but PC makers should see a rebound ahead of the back-to-school season, IDC says.

Things weren't dire for every PC manufacturer, however. Lenovo, which retained its spot as the top manufacturer in terms of shipments, saw modest year-over-year growth. Dell, sitting in third, also saw its shipments grow during the quarter. HP, Apple, and Acer, taking the second, fourth, and fifth spots, respectively, each saw declines.

It's worth noting that, while both firms saw the same overall trends, their exact numbers differ slightly. This comes down to the types of devices IDC and Gartner count as PC shipments. Gartner's data includes Windows desktops, notebooks, and tablets, but not Chromebooks. IDC, meanwhile, counts Windows desktops, laptops, and Chromebooks, but excludes Windows tablets and detachables.

Dan Thorp-Lancaster

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl