Mac, Chromebook gains soften PC industry decline

Dell PCs in a meeting room off the CES show floor. Credit: Simon Bisson

Meanwhile, Windows-powered PCs will contract by 5% in 2014

Although forecasts for PC shipments have brightened, much of the improvement stems from bets that Chromebooks and Macs will make up a larger part of this year's market.

Windows-powered PC shipments will decline at a rate sharper than overall sales of personal computers.

According to IDC, PC shipments will decline at a slower pace than thought previously. On Tuesday, the market research firm revised its 2014 forecast, saying that the global market would contract by 3.7% compared to the year before. Earlier, IDC had predicted a steeper 6% decline in shipments.

While the year will still end up negative -- with shipments of 303 million, down from 315 million in 2013 -- any news that the two-years-and-counting contraction may someday end will be welcomed by OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) who have struggled with the slump.

Such news would also be welcomed by Microsoft, which still generates the bulk of its Windows revenue from sales of licenses to computer makers.

But by Computerworld's calculations, sales of Windows-powered PCs will decline at a greater rate than the industry average. Under IDC's latest forecast model, Computerworld has pegged the Windows PC shipment decline at 5.3% for the year.

IDC did not break out Windows PCs from the industry overall, giving the impression that the slightly brighter prospects also meant that Windows sales would fall at a slower rate than previously thought.

That may, in fact, be the case. But calculations based on numbers from IDC, rival market research firm Gartner and a pair of financial analysts who track Apple showed that Windows PC sales will trail the average in 2014.

IDC did credit the rise in Chromebook sales for part of the sunnier forecast, but Gartner put a number to that, predicting that 5.2 million Chromebooks will ship this calendar year. And Mac sales, as forecast by Brian White of Cantor Fitzgerald and Brian Marshall of ISI, will reach 18.7 million, up 9% over the year prior.

Together, Chromebooks and Macs will boast a boost of 19.5% this year over last, from shipments of 20 million in 2013 to 23.9 million in 2014. That increase was part of the reason why overall PC shipments are now predicted to improve.

Taking the numbers for Chromebooks and Macs out of the equation leaves estimated shipments of 280 million Windows PCs for 2014, down from 295 million last year. That means Windows PCs will account for 92.1% of all personal computer shipments this year, a decline from 2013's estimate of 93.7%.

PC sales breakdown Data: IDC, Gartner, Computerworld.

Shipments of Windows-powered PCs will decline by 5.3% this year, while combined sales of Chromebooks and Macs will climb by 19.5%. The end result: A softer fall for the industry overall than once thought.

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