FRAMINGHAM, MA – Worldwide PC shipments are expected to fall 10% in the fourth quarter, with shipments down 10.3% in 2015, says International Data Corp.

Short-term headwinds like the strong dollar, depressed commodity prices, and existing inventory have also lowered the outlook for early 2016, although shipments are still expected to stabilize by the end of 2016 and grow slightly toward the end of the forecast as commercial replacements rise, says the firm.

Disruptions from political and economic transitions will have a particularly large impact on Japan, the Middle East and Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, and Latin America. Japan and MEA in particular will experience double-digit lower growth over the next year or more, while the CEE and Latin America regions have a short-term outlook that is in the high-single-digits lower.

In contrast, the forecast for the US, Western Europe, and Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan) will be only slightly lower, and Canada will improve slightly, according to IDC.

Beyond short-term declines, IDC remains optimistic replacements of commercial and consumer systems will ultimately stabilize the market and even drive growth. Once commercial adoption of Windows 10 accelerates, and in combination with upgrades to steadily aging consumer PCs, the firm expects demand for new PCs to improve for several years, as replacements will be boosted by the end of support for Window 7, just as the end of support for Windows XP boosted shipments in 2014.

Declining tablet volume and minimal growth in mobile phones (despite the continuing shift to smartphones) will also reduce pressure for consumers to spend on non-PC devices.

"Despite the substantial shift in spending and usage models from PCs toward tablets and phones in recent years, very few people are giving up on their PC; they are just making it last longer," said Loren Loverde , vice president, Worldwide Tracker Forecasting and PC research. "The free upgrade to Windows 10 enables some users to postpone an upgrade a little, but not indefinitely. Some consumers will use a free OS upgrade to delay a new PC purchase and test the transition to Windows 10. However, the experience of those customers may serve to highlight what they are missing by stretching the life of an older PC, and we expect they will ultimately purchase a new device. As detachable systems become more compelling (including attractive new Wintel designs), some volume will go to detachable tablets rather than traditional PC form factors, which will cut into the PC growth rate, but still support the PC vendors and ecosystem."

While detachable tablets are expected to grow quickly, they are still a relatively small part of the market, says the firm. As a reference, combining detachable tablets with PCs would boost growth by roughly three percentage points; this would result in a trend of declining volume from 2012 to 2015, followed by about 1% growth in 2016 and slightly higher gains in subsequent years.

"Despite declining competition from slate tablets, demand for PCs has remained price-sensitive and slow," said Jay Chou, research manager, Worldwide PC Tracker. "Nonetheless, the market is still evolving in more positive ways. IDC expects continued growth for all-in-one desktops, as well as convertible and ultraslim notebooks. Going forward, these designs will continue to gain share, even in the face of stable PC volumes and competition from detachable tablets."

In the US, the consumer PC segment will continue to erode. Growth of the detachable tablet category will only further slow consumer PC shipments, as some consumers elect to replace their existing PCs with the new form factors.

IDC believes the declines in the US consumer PC segment will be somewhat offset by growth of commercial PC shipments through the forecast period.

"Beyond a slow but steady churn in the installed base, Windows 10 could reach enterprises faster than previous releases, driving some commercial PC refreshes in the mid-term," added Linn Huang , research director, Devices & Displays. "Additionally, the US K-12 market continues to gain momentum, as vendors increasingly focus their Chromebook strategies there."

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