Worldwide PC shipments are expected to decline in 2012 for the first time in 11 years. Indeed, the total PC market in 2012 is projected to contract by 1.2% to 348.7 million units, down from 352.8 million in 2011.
As Craig Stice of IHS iSuppli notes, the worldwide PC industry hasn't suffered such a significant decline since way back in 2001.
"There was great hope through the first half that 2012 would prove to be a rebound year for the PC market. Now three quarters through the year, the usual boost from the back-to-school season appears to be a bust, and both AMD and Intel's third-quarter outlooks appear to be flat to down," explained Stice.
"Optimism has vanished and turned to doubt, and the industry is now training its sights on 2013 to deliver the hoped-for rebound. All this is setting the PC market up for its first annual decline since the dot-com bust year of 2001."
According to Stice, 2012 kicked off with "major hope" for Intel's ultrabooks at the annual Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
"New and innovative form factors like convertibles, combined with the first appearance of Windows 8 demos on display, provided a fresh wave of enthusiasm for the possibility of a revitalized PC market," said Stice.
"Even when first-quarter PC shipments came in, the less-than-stellar results were thought to be a minor setback."
To be sure, the high expectations continued midyear during the big PC event at Computex in Taiwan, as Intel once again plugged its latest Ivy Bridge processor. Shipments during the second quarter, however, disappointed.
As such, says Stice, three important questions remain. Firstly, how much impact will Windows 8 realistically have toward boosting the PC market in the fourth quarter? Secondly, will continuing global economic concerns neutralize whatever hype or interest has been generated by ultrabooks? And thirdly, will mobile computing gadgets such as tablets and smartphones win over PCs during the crucial holiday selling season, taking precious consumer dollars and keeping PC sales at bay?
"There are signs that a strong rebound could still occur in 2013. While IHS has reduced its forecast for them, the new ultrabooks and other ultrathin notebook computers remain viable products with the potential to redraw the PC landscape.
"[Plus], the addition of Windows 8 to the mix could prove potent and irresistible to consumers. Whether a newly configured PC space could then stand up to the powerful smartphone and tablet markets, however, remains to be seen," he added.