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Back-to-school demand for PCs fails to boost dwindling sales

Worldwide PC computer shipments have fallen to their lowest level for the back-to-school period since 2008, a report from market researched Gartner Inc. said.

According to the figures, lacklustre demand from students stocking up on back-to-school gadgetry slashed shipments to just 80.3 million units in the third quarter of 2013, working out as an 8.6 per cent decline from the same period last year.

Despite the setback, Lenovo hung on to its number one spot in the worldwide market, closely followed by Hewlett-Packard who dominated PC sales in the United States.

HP and Lenovo have been battling neck and neck for the top position in the PC market, and the latest figures suggest that the close struggle still rages; the third quarter saw Lenovo making up 17.6 per cent of global PC shipments whilst HP was snapping at its heels with 17.1 per cent. The upcoming holiday season will be pivotal in levelling the playing field for the two technology heavyweights.

The overall decline of sales, however, makes it clear that personal computers just don’t make the grade for back-to-school students tempted by cheaper tablet technologies. The latest figures mark the sixth consecutive quarter where worldwide shipments have floundered, a fact that the principal analyst at Gartner, Mikako Kitagwa, attributes to this consumer shift: “A greater availability of inexpensive Android tablets attracted first-time consumers in emerging markets, and as supplementary devices in mature markets."

The industry-wide fall of PC sales (both Acer and Asus, entrenched in the consumer market, also saw shipments fall by 22.5 per cent) suggests that this pattern will continue into next year. Efforts by PC makers to introduce new operating systems and features such as touch seem to be falling to penetrate consumer wallets, but whilst all this points to a post-PC world, not everyone has written off the market.

In an interview with eWEEK, the IDC's Bob O'Donnell maintained that most heavy-duty computing tasks are still carried out on PC devices, whilst the more portable tablets are suited for checking emails, social media and surfing the web as complementary side-kicks to the PCs’ power.

Image Credit: Flickr (AlexMuller)