There’s a long cold winter ahead for PC makers. That could be good news for PC buyers

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PC shipments fell by 22% year-on-year to 12.8 million in Western Europe in the third quarter (Q3) 2022, according to tech analyst Canalys. 

The decline was across notebooks, desktops, and workstations, but notebooks saw the biggest decline of 25% year-on-year to 10.4 million units as business spending waned, following a cooling on spending from consumers and the education sector after the pandemic. 

A bright point in the market was desktops, which only fell 6% thanks to large organizations still making purchases. 

Tablet shipments were also down 13% year-on-year to 6 million units in Q3 2022, according to Canalys. 

The decline in demand is not unexpected given rising prices and energy costs. The main difference compared to a few months ago was that businesses continued to spend on new hardware.  

“The decline in demand for PCs in Western Europe accelerated in Q3 2023,” said Canalys Research Analyst Kieren Jessop. “Previously robust commercial spending on PCs is now falling at the same rate as the consumer segment. Small-to-medium sized businesses cut PC purchases significantly, more than larger organizations, as economic headwinds shrank cashflows and increased interest rates made financing options costlier.”  

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One potential piece of good news for PC buyers is that vendors will need to continue offering promotions to stir demand and clear inventory “in what is shaping up to be a cold winter for the market” the analysts said.

Jessop also points to income inequality as the reason some consumers reduced spending earlier than others. This impact can be seen by bigger falls in purchases of mid-range hardware than the high-end. This has resulted in rising inventories, despite higher promotional activity in the quarter.   

“Consumer PC demand remains suppressed due to rising prices, particularly for energy. And as real incomes shrink there is a shift in demand across price levels,” he notes. 

“Shipments for PCs in the low-end have declined substantially more than the mid-range or high-end segments. This reflects the divergent impact inflation has across income levels. And with disposable incomes expected to contract further, demand will transfer from the high-end to more affordable options. Vendors with portfolios encompassing broader price ranges will be best set to capitalize on this.” 

Even though spending on electronics during the Black Friday sales was higher than expected, planned spending in the holiday season is forecast to be the biggest slump in over a decade. Canalys sees consumers refreshing hardware in 2024.

The only vendor in the top five to see shipments increase year-on-year is Apple, the third largest vendor whose tally rose from 1.9 million to 2.3 million in Q3. Apple started shipping the new MacBook Air with its M2 silicon in June.  

Review: Apple MacBook Air (M2, 2022)

Market leader Lenovo’s shipments declined 24.1% to 3.1 million, while shipments by second runner HP declined 36.8% to 2.7 million units. In fourth place, Dell’s shipments declined 18.9% to 1.9 million, while Asus’ shipments fell 24.4% to 900,000. 

Apple’s iPad dominated tablet sales at 2.8 million for the quarter, leaving it with a 47% marketshare, ahead of Samsung, which shopped 1.2 million tablets and now has a 20.4% share. Lenovo has an 11.9% share with 700,000 tablets, while Amazon has a 7.4% share on the back of its 400,000 Fire tablets shipped. Huawei shipped 200,000 tablets, leaving it with a 2.7% share. 

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