PC shipments decline for sixth consecutive quarter, but gaming PCs are on the rise

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As you traverse the web, you might encounter some doom and gloom headlines lamenting what appears to be the sorry state of the PC based on declining shipments. We've heard this narrative before, and while PC sales may be down, gaming PC sales are still ticking over just fine.

Gartner and IDC are the two big tracking firms that routinely report on PC shipments around the world every quarter, and both have some updated numbers to share. According to Gartner, preliminary number crunching suggests that worldwide PC shipments totaled 64.8 million units in the first quarter of 2016, down 9.6 percent from the same quarter a year ago. If that stands true when the final numbers are tallied, it will represent the sixth consecutive quarter of PC shipment declines. It will also be the first time since 2007 that PC shipments dipped below 65 million units.

"The deterioration of local currencies against the U.S. dollar continued to play a major role in PC shipment declines. Our early results also show there was an inventory buildup from holiday sales in the fourth quarter of 2015," said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner.

IDC sang a similar song, though its numbers showed global PC shipments totalling 60.6 million units in the first quarter of 2016, down 11.6 percent year-over-year. That's in line with what IDC was expecting, which noted conservative expectations for an 11.3 percent decline.

"In the short term, the PC market must still grapple with limited consumer interest and competition from other infrastructure upgrades in the commercial market," said Jay Chou, Research Manager, IDC Worldwide PC Tracker, "Nevertheless, IDC still projects total business IT spending to grow compared to 2015, and as we head toward the end of 2016 things should start picking up in terms of Windows 10 pilots turning into actual PC purchases."

Don't be freaked out by the reported declines. For one, IDC doesn't include handheld PCs or Windows tablets with detachable keyboards in its figures. There's also some question as to how both firms define "shipments" as Moor Insights & Strategy points out.

If you're worried that declining PC shipments will affect PC gaming, don't be. These figures mostly represent low-end systems, the general purpose PCs that Lenovo, Dell, and the rest of the gang sell to the masses. The market for high-end gaming PCs is still growing, as IDC noted to PCWorld at the beginning of the year.

Jon Peddie Research generally agrees with that assessment. According to JPR, following a slight dip in PC gaming hardware sales in 2015, the market will see steady growth for the next several years. But If you really want to know how gaming PCs are doing, the best approach is to ask the boutique builders themselves.

"At Puget Systems, our high end gaming PC sales have never been better. Windows 10, Skylake, 4K, VR, and a strong year of gaming title launches, has made 2015 a strong year for enthusiast gaming PCs, and we expect 2016 to be even stronger," Jon Back, founder of Puget Systems, told Maximum PC. "Keep in mind, when Gartner and IDC talk about PC shipments, they're talking about the volume market, and most of the volume is entry level. We enthusiast PC builders live is a completely different world!"

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