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PC Does What? Answer: Sits on a Shelf, as 2015 Sales Tank Worldwide.

It was the worst year for PC sales since records have been kept -- for the second time in three years.


If you needed any further hint that the personal computer is looking more like the 21st century equivalent of the buggy whip each day, the two big research houses that track that industry, IDC and Gartner, reported their results for the year just ended, and the news was not good.

In fact, despite a multimillion-dollar industry marketing campaign, sales declined so much — more than 10 percent in IDC’s reckoning — that 2015 now qualifies as the worst year since records have been kept. And that’s saying something, because the previous year that held that distinction was 2013.

The only good news for companies like Lenovo, HP and Dell, which were the world’s three top vendors, is that expectations were already low. All three saw their overall sales fall year on year, Lenovo by nearly 4 percent, Dell and HP by 6 percent each. Sales of Apple Macs grew by more than 6 percent, making it the No. 4 vendor in the world ahead of Acer, whose sales fell by more than 18 percent.

Overall sales dropped below the 300 million unit mark for the first time since 2008. That’s an important psychological barrier. For years in the face of declines, PC company execs have held fast to the belief that consumers and businesses would continue to buy about 300 million units a year, and that the vendors could fight over that pie. Now we have conclusive evidence — four years of data — that the pie will shrink meaningfully before sales level out to a new state of equilibrium.

Here’s IDC’s chart, which includes sales of desktops, notebooks, Chromebooks, ultraslim notebooks and workstations, but not tablets or handhelds:


In the U.S. market, HP sold 18.1 million PCs, beating Dell, which sold 15.6 million. Apple sold 8.3 million. Lenovo grew, too, by 14.5 percent but came in fourth. Toshiba, which only sells notebooks, sold 3.4 million units, amounting to a decline of nearly 20 percent. Overall, the U.S. market declined less than 3 percent, which, all things considered, sounds almost good by comparison.

Gartner saw a sharp worldwide decline, too, amounting to 8 percent. Its numbers differ from IDC’s in that it doesn’t consider a Chromebook to be a PC. Whatever. Still down. Here’s its chart:

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