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PC shipments were in decline for the fifth year in a row this holiday season

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The holiday season is typically expected to boost the sales of all manner of tech, but new reports indicate that PC shipments for the fourth quarter of 2016 were down year-over-year. Given that the holidays weren’t kind to the PC market in 2015, there are concerns that the recovery many were hoping for is never going to materialize.

Market research firms IDC and Gartner are both estimating a drop in overall PC sales for the closing stretch of 2016, according to a report from Engadget. IDC is reporting a 1.5 percent decline over the same period in 2015, while Gartner expects the drop to be as large as 3.7 percent.

Shipments are down for the fifth year in a row, although there wasn’t quite as big of a drop between 2016 and 2015 as there was between 2015 and 2014. IDC is taking this as evidence that the PC market is coming to the end of its decline, but Gartner has a less hopeful view of the situation.

Gartner sees the drop in shipments as a natural extension of our changing relationship with the PC. Gamers and other enthusiast audiences are driving growth, but the masses are satisfied by their smartphones and tablets for day-to-day use, and are holding off on upgrading their laptops and desktops as a result.

In terms of the market share of various brands, Acer, Asus, and various smaller manufacturers all saw declines between the fourth quarter of 2015 and the fourth quarter of 2016. Conversely, Lenovo, Apple, HP, and Dell all managed to increase their share.

The release of Apple’s new MacBook Pro in October 2016 seems to have been particularly impactful, according to a report from MacWorld. The company saw a year-on-year decline of just 0.9 percent in the fourth quarter, which compares favorably to the 9.8 percent decline in Mac shipments between the entirety of 2016 and the entirety of 2015.

This is a turbulent time for the PC industry, and it’s not particularly clear whether we’ve moved past the most dramatic period of decline. The market could still bounce back — but it seems more likely that different forms of hardware are impeding further growth for more traditional computers.

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Brad Jones
Brad is an English-born writer currently splitting his time between Edinburgh and Pennsylvania. You can find him on Twitter…
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