|Desktop PC Platform: Statistical Obituary|
|Articles - Opinion & Editorials|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Thursday, 19 August 2010|
Desktop PC Platform: Statistical Obituary
This is the third piece in an ongoing editorial series, in which the introductory article (Desktop PC Platform: Fears and Predictions) identified several threats that could potentially put an end the desktop PC platform. To summarize that piece, desktop computers are at risk of extinction by a wide range of predators: notebooks, netbooks, Smartphones, PDA devices, and gaming consoles. There was some serious discussion and debate surrounding my Desktop PC Platform: Killed By Overclocking follow-up article, in which I blame the aftermarket industry for their role in desktop decay. For this article, worldwide sales statistics make a strong argument against the longevity of desktop computers into the future. Will gaming consoles, notebook computers, and Smartphone devices replace the desktop PC anytime soon? Perhaps the obituary has already been written and we're all just ignoring the bad news.
Many readers familiar with Benchmark Reviews or other industry websites will recall a bit of news from December 2008, when it was announced that notebook computer sales finally surpassed desktops. For most who follow the computer industry, this was a long overdue and expected event. But for those us who really enjoy the custom nature of desktop PCs, this news spelled out a questionable future for hardware enthusiasts and overclockers. In the ways that matter most to this industry, meaning revenue and profitability, this was the beginning of the end for desktop computing. Once computer sales began a profit-friendly trend within notebook and Smartphone markets, it would be a matter of time before desktop component manufacturer's desert their diminishing yet loyal user base to focus of more lucrative pastures.
Even without competing markets to squeeze desktops out of the picture, this embattled sector has still managed to become its own threat. First tier OEMs such as Acer, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Toshiba have been very successful at absorbing the build-it-yourself marketshare with their own pre-built alternatives. Additionally, the pre-built market has learned to deliver many of the high-end options that performance gamers and hardware enthusiasts users desire. Gone are the days where you had to build a 'white box' PC just to get the video card you wanted. While some brands within the component industry will continue to thrive through OEM agreements, as proven by companies such as Foxconn who still supplies enthusiast hardware solutions, it's clear that smaller brands may be forced out of business as the market shrinks. Unfortunately, only OEM sales figures are available for comparison, and no public statistics exist for enthusiast hardware manufacturers.
Even when OEM's aren't stealing away sales from the component market, sales of IGP (Integrated Graphics Processor) platforms are in strong demand. Rising sales of these microprocessors is expected to have a negative impact on sales of standalone graphics chips, with the worldwide market for discrete graphics devices for PCs declining to shipments of 62 million by 2014, down from 73-million in 2009. This spells bad news for gamers, and companies like NVIDIA and AMD. Source: http://www.isuppli.com/Home-and-Consumer-Electronics/News/Pages/Integrated-Graphics-Microprocessors-Take-Over-Notebook-PC-Market.aspx
Since 2008, the worldwide economy has been experiencing a multi-year recession. As a result, sales figures have experienced significant peaks and valleys with each uncertain quarter. The economy has suffered several expansions and contractions, which have delivered a mixed message as low sales one period are replaced with record highs the next. This article will share statistics from the 2008 and 2009 business years to help illustrate how poorly the desktop market has fared against notebook, Smartphone, and gaming consoles. Let's begin with the industry sales statistics for 2008...
2008 Sales Statistics
Industry expert Gartner, Inc. reported 272.5-million total PCs were sold in 2007, compared to a preliminary count of 302.2-million units in 2008. Keep in mind that these sales figures include desktop, notebook, and server computer systems. Conversely, a noteworthy 97.63-million gaming consoles were sold worldwide in 2008 according to VGChartz hardware sales research. It's unclear exactly how many desktop computer systems were sold in 2008, but thanks to some insight from George Shiffler, research director at Gartner, we can glean more from 2009 statistics...
Preliminary Worldwide PC Vendor Unit Shipment Estimates for 2008 (Thousands of Units)
Source: Gartner (January 2009) http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=856712
Worldwide Gaming Console Sales for 2008 (Millions of Units)
2009 Sales Statistics
According to Gartner, there were 305.8 million computer units shipped in 2009. "We expect mobile PCs to drive 90 percent of PC growth over the next three years," said George Shiffler. "In 2009, mobile PCs accounted for 55 percent of all PC shipments; by 2012, we expect mobile PCs to account for nearly 70 percent of shipments." Source: http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=1313513
According to Gartner, worldwide mini-notebook (netbook) shipments totaled 32.1 million units in 2009. Mini-notebooks will account for 18.6 percent of mobile PC shipments in 2010, but their share will steadily decline after this year, falling to 13.9 percent of the mobile PC market in 2014. Source: http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=1375313
Preliminary Worldwide PC Vendor Unit Shipment Estimates for 2009 (Thousands of Units)
Worldwide Gaming Console Sales for 2009 (Millions of Units)
Worldwide PC shipments surpassed 90 million units in the fourth quarter of 2009, a 22.1 percent increase from the fourth quarter of 2008, according to preliminary results by Gartner, Inc. This quarter delivered the strongest year over year growth rate the worldwide PC market had experienced in the past seven years; although it should be noted that these numbers are compared to a very weak quarter a year ago due to the economic downturn at that time.
Calculating statistics based on Gartner research worldwide totals and Mr. Shiffler's comment, desktop PCs sold 138.7-million units to all markets in 2009. Conversely, portable mobile (notebook/netbook) computers comprised 169.6-million units in the same period. Despite a small decline in worldwide sales compared to 2008 (Nintendo GameBoy Advance and GameCube not included), VGChartz reported 89.1-million console gaming systems were sold in 2009. We can presume that gaming consoles were not purchased for business purposes, but by comparison personal gaming consoles sold at 56% to all desktop PCs (business, personal, or otherwise). But what about Smartphone devices?
Smartphone devices are a discussion saved for another article, but according to Gartner the worldwide mobile phone sales totaled 286.1 million units in the second quarter of 2009. Translated to comparative terms, mobile phones outsold all computer sales by a 4:1 ratio in 2009. While this specific statistic doesn't separate Smartphone devices out from the total, there's still a healthy dose of food for thought served in this information. Source: http://www.pcworld.com/article/171380/more_Smartphones_than_desktop_pcs_by_2011.html
Getting solid data doesn't come free. Gartner offers small amounts of information in each of their periodic press releases, which is appreciated, but sources such as iSuppi charge several thousand dollars for each report. Of course, worldwide data is only one part of the picture, and regional figures may offer a better perspective. India is one such example, and MAIT is an organization that freely offers a wealth of knowledge. For those readers seriously interested in the future of desktop computers, the MAIT annual report for 2008-2009 contains some frightening figures. It's worth the research, since their data is also broken into specific categories with installation totals. Source: http://www.mait.com/admin/press_images/press28-07-10_7.html