According to a new paper by Counterpoint Research in August 2016, a sea change is taking place within the PC/laptop marketplace. The market is mature, with an installed base of more than 1.5 billion units in place as of 2016, and new/replacement purchases are not exactly refreshing the devices that were purchased four or five years ago.
“Back in 2012,” write Neil Shah, research director of CounterPoint, “more than 351 million PCs were sold, nearly 349 million of which were laptop/notebook or desktop systems. Fast forward to 2015, only 282 million PCs were sold, of which only 260 million were desktops or laptops.”
On the face of it, these numbers suggest a 20% drop in overall sales and a 25% drop in the number of desktop/laptop systems sold. But Counterpoint notes that these numbers also showcase the dramatic rise in the sale of the non-desktop/non-laptop devices – meaning tablet and “hybrid” devices (those devices going under names like “convertibles,” “detachable tablet PCs,” and “ultrabooks”). Sales of tablet and hybrid devices have grown by 1,500% since 2012 – from 2 million units in 2012 to 31 million in 2015. Counterpoint forecasts that sales of tablet and hybrid devices will be in the range of 90 million units by 2021, comprising more than 50% of PC sales.
Counterpoint also notes, though, that NAND Flash may yet drive an increase in sales of more traditional laptops. By replacing thicker hard disk drives with storage systems based on NAND Flash technology, PC manufacturers can slim down those thicker laptops so that they begin to feel as light and as responsive as the tablet and hybrid devices. This will be particularly appealing to people who rely on their PCs to create, not just consume, content.