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Detachable notebooks demand grows as traditional PCs falter

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CPU shortage may hamper some entry-level device volume shipment, says IDC.
CPU shortage may hamper some entry-level device volume shipment, says IDC.

While the commercial personal computing devices (PCD) market is expected to see a decline in 2019, the detachable notebooks and detachable tablets forecast has been raised for the year.

This is according to a new report from the International Data Corporation (IDC), the Worldwide Quarterly Personal Computing Device Tracker, which found that unit shipments for the worldwide PCD market (traditional PCs and tablets) is expected to decline by 3.3% in 2019.

"Personal computing device shipments is forecast to continue its slow decline as the market shrinks to 372.6 million units in 2023, with a five year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of -1.2%," according to the report.

"However, detachable notebooks and tablets are expected to grow modestly over the five-year forecast with a CAGR of 4.6%. IDC believes this product category will have a stronger impact in the commercial segment, as vendors increasingly focus their attention on enterprise and education markets for their sales."

2018 also saw an overall decline in PCD shipments despite good growth for commercial PCs.

Chrome-based detachable devices, according to the report, which tend to be education-centric, are expected to find some traction as more detachable Chrome tablets enter the scene. Slate tablets will continue to decline, with a CAGR of -4.4%, with the market becoming increasingly concentrated towards the holiday quarters. Competition from key players has resulted in more brands reducing their presence or exiting the market altogether.

"Notebooks/mobile workstations and detachable tablets are expected to take 53% of all PCD shipments by 2023, a clear majority," says Jay Chou, research manager of the PCD Tracker at IDC.

"Even as personal computing takes place on a myriad of devices and emerging venues like the cloud, IDC believes there remains a place for portable devices that can evolve to fit changing tastes while still retaining important but under-appreciated features like a physical keyboard."

IDC expects a sizable amount of last-minute Windows 10 migration projects to be completed this year, with advances in the PC experience expected to further cement notebooks as the dominant form factor and taking up most of the PCD market by 2023.

Traditional PCs slip

Traditional PCs will continue along a tough landscape, with declining desktop demand offset by emerging notebook opportunities, stabilising with a slight CAGR decline of -0.4% between 2019 and 2023, according to IDC.

Some inhibitors that surfaced near the end of 2018 will still be at play in the early part of 2019, as the central processing unit shortage may hamper some entry-level device volume. Gaming PCs, whose momentum had been building for much of 2018, will also face some short-term challenges as the market works through older graphics processing unit inventory and the gaming ecosystem warms up to Nvidia's latest offerings, it adds.

"While the long-run PCD market remains in persistent decline, the constitution of the market continues to churn for the better," adds Linn Huang, research director for devices and displays at IDC.

"And with ray-tracing ramping up and 5G-connected, dual-screen, and foldable devices on the not-too-distant horizon, consumers and professionals will likely find something compelling at the premium end."

According to Gartner, worldwide PC shipments totalled 68.6 million units in the fourth quarter of 2018, a 4.3% decline from the fourth quarter of 2017.

Gartner analysts say there were signs for optimism in 2018, but the industry was impacted by two key trends.

"Just when demand in the PC market started seeing positive results, a shortage of CPUs created supply chain issues. After two quarters of growth in 2Q18 and 3Q18, PC shipments declined in the fourth quarter," says Mikako Kitagawa, senior principal analyst at Gartner.

"The impact from the CPU shortage affected vendors' ability to fulfil demand created by business PC upgrades. We expect this demand will be pushed forward into 2019 if CPU availability improves."

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