back to article There’s no new normal coming for PC sales, just the boring old normal of a long, slow decline

PC sales will resume their long-term decline in 2021, says analyst firm IDC. It’s still happy days for Dell, HP Inc and Lenovo for now, because the work-from-home boom means demand for new PCs and tablets exceeds supply. But with most businesses having finished shopping for work-from-home kit, that source of spend will dry up …

  1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Mature Market

    Cov19 created a one-off blip in sales but did not change the market fundamentals. PC sales is showing the characteristics of a mature market. Kit is generally good enough to last many years before needing replacement for the vast majority of users. And there is no compelling to buy the latest CPU or GPU for most users. What will happen is the decline will eventually stop and sales will bounce around a mean with the possibility of sluggish increase of units sold occurring; behavior typical of mature markets.

    Most of these 'analyst' are not telling me anything that has not occurred before as markets matured. Now if they can accurately predict the floor and the long term behavior once the floor is reached they might be worth something. Otherwise perusing a history book is more valuable; the pattern has always held.

    1. Maelstorm Bronze badge

      Re: Mature Market

      I wish to point out, and I agree with you, that the hardware does last for years. I'm talking from personal experience here. I recently replaced a traditional hard drive in my machine with a SSD. The hard drive is still functioning and was manufactured in 2008, which is around the time that I bought it and installed it. The performance increase is night and day. I've had video cards with ATI chips last 7-10 years. I have a Sound Blaster LIVE card from the late 1990's that still works, but is no longer supported by anything. My video card is a ATI Radeon HD 5670. Well out of date and support, but it still works quite well. It's outlived two monitors thus far. I also had an ATI All-In-Wonder card that lasted 10 years or so.

      What usually drives hardware sales is performance. What drives the need for performance? Games. As new games come out that takes advantage of high end GPU hardware, rendering performance is critical here. Although the CPU to video bottleneck is there, the bigger bottleneck is CPU to mass storage (hard drives) which SSD's has mostly solved. I usually buy parts when that part no longer does what I need it to do. I bought the SSD because the drive it replaced is 12 years old, and the chance of complete failure in the near future is becoming more and more likely. I also bought a 4TB drive as a new backup drive because the 2TB drive is about full. One of these days, I will buy a new video card and a new monitor to take a look at this 4K and 8K video. As a software developer, 1920x1080 is getting a little cramped on my screen. I have even thought of doing a dual monitor setup, but I'm still on the fence about that. My usage patterns for desktops includes gaming, graphics, and browsers. But it also includes media processing, running IDEs such as Visual Studio and Android Studio, emulators, and virtualization. The last two are major resource hogs.

      The PC market is becoming like the market for refrigerators, washers, and dryers. Once you saturate the market, the only sales that you will have are replacement units (barring new construction of course).

      And that 12 year old hard drive? It's a Western Digital 300GB that spins at 10,000 RPM. It was a quick little sucker back in the day. I believe I paid $349.95 for it at Fry's Electronics.

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Mature Market

      Well, there is the potentially disruptive child around that could accelerate the decline.

      I know of one large PC user who gave all their staff Raspberry Pi's to take home - it having an RDS Client and web browser installed; all that is necessary to access cloud-based corporate systems...

  2. Binraider

    4-5 year old i7-6700K here. Recently transferred to a z270 motherboard and added a bottlenecked 5700xt graphics card. Doom eternal works perfect at max settings on my 2500 by 1440 monitor (I forget the exact resolution numbers!) In principle PCIE4 and more cpu cores would be an upgrade. CPU runs at 35 degrees and no overclocking needed. I don’t render nearly enough video to really justify the diminishing returns, and if I’m honest, I don’t expect a big jump without swapping to something really high end.

    Rather like the redundant war adding more horsepower to road saloons, there is no benefit to doing so. Beyond 250 the advantages in regular road use are nonexistent.

    Buying pc bits used to be fun, now it’s as exciting as picking out a new washing machine. Throw in shit software, ad based or subscription models it’s no wonder sales are falling.

  3. Korev Silver badge

    The only compelling reason I have to upgrade my 6 year old PC is that I'm out of PCI-E slots and SATA3 connections. At some point I'll get around to it, but until I need to plug something else in then I have no urgent reason to do it.

    I've swapped all the discs and have a mirror for my photos so I can be reasonably confident I won't have to "test my backups" soon.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why would you buy a PC when you can buy a Mac?

    It makes no sense.

    1. itzumee

      Re: Why would you buy a PC when you can buy a Mac?

      Yawn

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Why would you buy a PC when you can buy a Mac?

      Is a Mac impersonal or is it not a computer?

      1. RM Myers Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Why would you buy a PC when you can buy a Mac?

        A Mac is a personal unicorn.

    3. Daniel von Asmuth

      Re: Why would you buy a PC when you can buy a Mac?

      A Mac is an Intel PC designed for running Microsoft Windows, except that it's made by Apple and therefore more expensive.

  5. Mike 137 Silver badge

    If it still works...

    Not a single machine in our workshops is less than ten years old and none run windoze 10. But everything works fine and we do a lot of design and production on them. Why "upgrade" just to keep vendors in a revenue stream, particularly as successive iterations of software are increasingly bug ridden.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    New computers not needed as often

    We are a computer family, not surprising seeing as I am reading the Reg.

    I recently built a new PC for myself.

    My old one went to my partner, more than good enough as a games machine, even with a 3rd generation i7.

    My daughter's PC is from an office refurbishment, it runs modern games once I put my old graphics card in and is more than powerful enough for her needs for the next 4 years or so.

    Basically upgrades are just not needed like they used to be, modern PCs are powerful enough for most things now.

  7. mark l 2 Silver badge

    My desktop PC is a circa 2008 Dell Optiplex, it dual boots Windows 10 and Linux Mint and is still usable for Office, internet and a little bit of video and photo editing. Other than perhaps needing its HDD upgrading to a SSD I have no need to replace it.

    So If your not a PC gamer or heavily into video editing or 3D modelling then even the most basic new PC or refurbished computer should do for most people.

  8. Daniel von Asmuth
    Coat

    The collapse of capitalism

    The corona crisis must be causing a severe downturn if PC sales rise merely 3.3 % instead of a healty 33 % :-(

  9. AK565

    Agreed. Even with job moving entirely online, all of my 10+ yr old laptops seem to be up to the task.

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