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Thought the PC market couldn't get any worse? HAH! Think again

Prepare yourselves for a mid-teens decline, vendors

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Any PC makers dreaming of a sales rebound this year are picking up the pieces of that shattered aspiration: beancounters at IDC reckon the number of computers shipped will be worse than first feared.

The statisticians believe the market in Western Europe will decline 16.3 per cent to just shy of 47 million units in 2013, compared to the 15.5 per cent decline it previously predicted and equating to 500,000 fewer PCs.

The downgrade follows a disappointing back-to-school period in June, a continued assault on notebook sales by slabs, and modest expectations for the impact of Windows 8.1, due out later this year.

Compounding the matter is a stock hangover from the first and second quarters, said Maciej Gornicki, senior research analyst at IDC, as distributors and retailers continue to apply "inventory controls".

"Demand remains weak, particularly in consumer, and we expect channel players' orders to continue be at the lower level," he told us.

A slew of next-generation tabs are on the way from major players, which will continue to capture the attention of users, we're told; but IDC added that ultrabook and touch-enabled lappies still carry a price premium.

Microsoft has completed its Windows 8.1 makeover, but Gornicki claimed the features will not be attractive enough to pull in the punters.

The business-to-business space will also remain in a "negative" spiral, and the vital back-to-school summer shopping season failed to meet sales expectations for vendors and channel partners, "demand was weaker than expected", he said.

The wider enterprise market holds no hope either, IDC added. "There are no major renewals expected in the enterprise space at least until the second half of 2014," said Gornicki.

Neil Marshall, UK managing director at Acer and a popular distribution channel figure, told us the consumer market was not getting any easier with the major protagonists fighting for share and using price as a weapon.

But ever the optimist, he said: "[I] strongly believe there will be a rebound in the notebook space, purely consumer we are talking about here.

"People have been putting off buying a new notebook and there was no compelling reason to buy. But with the advent of touch, as the price comes down to a more manageable level, we will see a rebound in traditional notebooks."

IDC reckons consumers will be happy to pay a €50 (£43) price premium for touchscreen notebooks or ultrabooks versus traditional clam shells – but at present the average difference was in the order of €200 (£172).

Marshall said he had opinions on the "price point [that] will trigger that elasticity in the market" but didn't want to share this with rivals the wider world.

Ranjit Atwal, principal analyst at Gartner, said Q4 is a "make or break time for some PC makers" with the Windows 8 upgrade, and new form-factors and price points on the horizon.

"Never mind a rebound, what PC makers need is for the market to stop declining," he said. ®

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