So much for the PC industry bouncing back after years of decline. Analysts at Gartner and IDC estimate that computer shipments fell between 3.3 and 4.3 percent in the second quarter, resuming an otherwise unbroken slump. However, the drop wasn’t due to the usual issues, like the rise of smartphones — it was the knock-on effect of part shortages that killed dreams of a recovery. Component companies raised prices on parts like solid-state drives and LCDs to keep the supply-and-demand balance in check, and the resulting price hikes at some PC vendors led to people staying away.
There was an upside — at least, if you’re Google. Researchers note that Chromebook shipments fared much better than the rest of the PC industry, with Gartner reporting that they grew 38 percent worldwide compared to a 6 percent drop for the overall PC field. Chromebooks are particularly strong in the US thanks to schools, which often buy in spring to get ready for the fall.
This state of affairs should improve now that shortages are less of a problem, but it puts a damper on near-term hopes of the PC business returning to its halcyon days of steady growth. Although that’s still possible, it’s clear that the current market is still sensitive to every little gust of wind. Any resurgence is likely to be slow and bumpy, if it happens at all.