Dell founder and CEO Michael Dell prepares to speak Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Global PC Shipments Drop to Lowest Quarter Since '07

Dell knocked HP from the top spot in the United States, but six straight quarterly drops worldwide have sent just about everybody in the industry reeling.

Worldwide personal-computer shipments slid to their lowest quarterly total since 2007, signaling another challenging year ahead for an industry staggered by a sluggish economy and changing consumer tastes. Globally, shipments dropped 9.6% in the period, the sixth consecutive decline, with IDC reporting similar worldwide results.

Dell Inc. dethroned HP Inc. as the top PC seller in the U.S. for the first quarter — something that hasn’t happened this decade, according to market researcher Gartner Inc. Dell’s focus on business customers and HP’s refusal to chase business with just low prices switched the top two players.

PC makers, who have already weathered four straight years of falling shipments, remain under pressure as potential customers delay — or skip — purchases of desktops and laptops, opting for increasingly powerful smartphones. Even developing markets, including Brazil and Russia, are failing to create demand, as the economy and the strong U.S. dollar hamper sales, Gartner said.

“Because of the economy issues and other issues it doesn’t look like those people who purchased smartphones are going to buy any other devices any time soon,” said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner.

Manufacturers shipped 64.8 million machines in the period compared with about 71.7 million a year earlier, Gartner said Monday in a statement. U.S. shipments declined 6.6% to 13.1 million.

Lenovo Group Ltd. retained its hold on the top spot in the global market with 19.3% of first-quarter shipments, even as sales fell 7.2% from the year-earlier period. Apple Inc. was No. 5 with 7.1% — up from 6.4% a year earlier.

In the U.S., Dell claimed 26.3% of the market while HP had 23.7%. Dell is benefiting from its focus on business customers, who are more likely to increase purchases of PCs, Kitagawa said. The Round Rock, Texas-based company jumped into the top spot for the first time since 2008.

Microsoft Corp.’s new Windows 10 operating system has been slow to jump-start growth of new machines as the company offers free upgrades to existing customers. The industry is hoping the new software — with its slick touch-screens and other features — will help stave off declines during the rest of the year. Manufacturers also should benefit from comparisons with 2015 sales that were buffeted by currency headwinds, Kitagawa said.

By Brian Womack

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