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Written by Olin Coles   
Thursday, 19 August 2010

Desktop PC Platform: Statistical Obituary

This is the third piece in an ongoing editorial series, in which the introductory article (Desktop PC Platform: Fears and Predictions) identified several threats that could potentially put an end the desktop PC platform. To summarize that piece, desktop computers are at risk of extinction by a wide range of predators: notebooks, netbooks, Smartphones, PDA devices, and gaming consoles. There was some serious discussion and debate surrounding my Desktop PC Platform: Killed By Overclocking follow-up article, in which I blame the aftermarket industry for their role in desktop decay. For this article, worldwide sales statistics make a strong argument against the longevity of desktop computers into the future. Will gaming consoles, notebook computers, and Smartphone devices replace the desktop PC anytime soon? Perhaps the obituary has already been written and we're all just ignoring the bad news.

Many readers familiar with Benchmark Reviews or other industry websites will recall a bit of news from December 2008, when it was announced that notebook computer sales finally surpassed desktops. For most who follow the computer industry, this was a long overdue and expected event. But for those us who really enjoy the custom nature of desktop PCs, this news spelled out a questionable future for hardware enthusiasts and overclockers. In the ways that matter most to this industry, meaning revenue and profitability, this was the beginning of the end for desktop computing. Once computer sales began a profit-friendly trend within notebook and Smartphone markets, it would be a matter of time before desktop component manufacturer's desert their diminishing yet loyal user base to focus of more lucrative pastures.

Even without competing markets to squeeze desktops out of the picture, this embattled sector has still managed to become its own threat. First tier OEMs such as Acer, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Toshiba have been very successful at absorbing the build-it-yourself marketshare with their own pre-built alternatives. Additionally, the pre-built market has learned to deliver many of the high-end options that performance gamers and hardware enthusiasts users desire. Gone are the days where you had to build a 'white box' PC just to get the video card you wanted. While some brands within the component industry will continue to thrive through OEM agreements, as proven by companies such as Foxconn who still supplies enthusiast hardware solutions, it's clear that smaller brands may be forced out of business as the market shrinks. Unfortunately, only OEM sales figures are available for comparison, and no public statistics exist for enthusiast hardware manufacturers.

Even when OEM's aren't stealing away sales from the component market, sales of IGP (Integrated Graphics Processor) platforms are in strong demand. Rising sales of these microprocessors is expected to have a negative impact on sales of standalone graphics chips, with the worldwide market for discrete graphics devices for PCs declining to shipments of 62 million by 2014, down from 73-million in 2009. This spells bad news for gamers, and companies like NVIDIA and AMD. Source:

Since 2008, the worldwide economy has been experiencing a multi-year recession. As a result, sales figures have experienced significant peaks and valleys with each uncertain quarter. The economy has suffered several expansions and contractions, which have delivered a mixed message as low sales one period are replaced with record highs the next. This article will share statistics from the 2008 and 2009 business years to help illustrate how poorly the desktop market has fared against notebook, Smartphone, and gaming consoles. Let's begin with the industry sales statistics for 2008...

2008 Sales Statistics

Industry expert Gartner, Inc. reported 272.5-million total PCs were sold in 2007, compared to a preliminary count of 302.2-million units in 2008. Keep in mind that these sales figures include desktop, notebook, and server computer systems. Conversely, a noteworthy 97.63-million gaming consoles were sold worldwide in 2008 according to VGChartz hardware sales research. It's unclear exactly how many desktop computer systems were sold in 2008, but thanks to some insight from George Shiffler, research director at Gartner, we can glean more from 2009 statistics...

Preliminary Worldwide PC Vendor Unit Shipment Estimates for 2008 (Thousands of Units)


2008 Shipments

2008 Market Share (%)

2007 Shipments

2007 Market Share (%)

2008-2007 Growth (%)







Dell Inc.




































Source: Gartner (January 2009)

Worldwide Gaming Console Sales for 2008 (Millions of Units)



















































2009 Sales Statistics

According to Gartner, there were 305.8 million computer units shipped in 2009. "We expect mobile PCs to drive 90 percent of PC growth over the next three years," said George Shiffler. "In 2009, mobile PCs accounted for 55 percent of all PC shipments; by 2012, we expect mobile PCs to account for nearly 70 percent of shipments." Source:

According to Gartner, worldwide mini-notebook (netbook) shipments totaled 32.1 million units in 2009. Mini-notebooks will account for 18.6 percent of mobile PC shipments in 2010, but their share will steadily decline after this year, falling to 13.9 percent of the mobile PC market in 2014. Source:

Preliminary Worldwide PC Vendor Unit Shipment Estimates for 2009 (Thousands of Units)


2009 Shipments

2009 Market Share (%)

2008 Shipments

2008 Market Share (%)

2009-2008 Growth (%)













Dell Inc.































Worldwide Gaming Console Sales for 2009 (Millions of Units)










































Worldwide PC shipments surpassed 90 million units in the fourth quarter of 2009, a 22.1 percent increase from the fourth quarter of 2008, according to preliminary results by Gartner, Inc. This quarter delivered the strongest year over year growth rate the worldwide PC market had experienced in the past seven years; although it should be noted that these numbers are compared to a very weak quarter a year ago due to the economic downturn at that time.


Calculating statistics based on Gartner research worldwide totals and Mr. Shiffler's comment, desktop PCs sold 138.7-million units to all markets in 2009. Conversely, portable mobile (notebook/netbook) computers comprised 169.6-million units in the same period. Despite a small decline in worldwide sales compared to 2008 (Nintendo GameBoy Advance and GameCube not included), VGChartz reported 89.1-million console gaming systems were sold in 2009. We can presume that gaming consoles were not purchased for business purposes, but by comparison personal gaming consoles sold at 56% to all desktop PCs (business, personal, or otherwise). But what about Smartphone devices?

Smartphone devices are a discussion saved for another article, but according to Gartner the worldwide mobile phone sales totaled 286.1 million units in the second quarter of 2009. Translated to comparative terms, mobile phones outsold all computer sales by a 4:1 ratio in 2009. While this specific statistic doesn't separate Smartphone devices out from the total, there's still a healthy dose of food for thought served in this information. Source:

Getting solid data doesn't come free. Gartner offers small amounts of information in each of their periodic press releases, which is appreciated, but sources such as iSuppi charge several thousand dollars for each report. Of course, worldwide data is only one part of the picture, and regional figures may offer a better perspective. India is one such example, and MAIT is an organization that freely offers a wealth of knowledge. For those readers seriously interested in the future of desktop computers, the MAIT annual report for 2008-2009 contains some frightening figures. It's worth the research, since their data is also broken into specific categories with installation totals. Source:

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# RE: Desktop PC Platform: Statistical ObituaryDoug 2010-08-18 23:16
It''s an interesting read for sure. I guess it could happen, but I really don't think "desktops" will end before there is a replacement for them power wise. One thing desktops really have going against them is that they are increasingly an enthusiast investment in time and money. People don't have the patience to figure out what a powerful PC can do and most don't even care. Except for graphics artists, gamers, and programmers, most people don't need a desktop. Those people chat, email(taken over now largely by text messages), and browse the web, and that's about it. I've actually had younger people at my house looking at my full tower 830SE Stacker case, my color laser and black and white laser printer, my three 23" monitors, scanners, UPS, Wireless keyboards and graphics tablets, and ask--what's all that?
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# RE: Desktop PC Platform: Statistical ObituaryPaul P 2010-08-18 23:56
Given that benchmark reviews is focused on the enthusiast marketplace it is understandable to see how the opinion presented is shaped by what is a consumer focus instead of a business focus. Desktop unit volumes are growing this year and while the growth is not the same as laptops there is growth. There are a lot of emerging marketplaces that are still consuming increasing volumes of desktop based systems. There are also good size markets that are stable and show little erosion year over year due to laptops. They just aren't the focus of benchmark reviews. Mobility is not always an advantage nor is the closed architecture of a mobile device. Try getting a new AC adapter in India for your laptop vs getting a new ATX power supply. That said there will be consolidation in the manufacturing base as the growth rate is too small to allow the marginal players to be profitable just on growth.
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# RE: Desktop PC Platform: Statistical ObituarySteven Iglesias-Hearst 2010-08-19 02:05
My family looks like this - Dad, Mum + three boys. In our house we have a desktop PC designed for gaming, a notebook computer and we also have a Wii and an XBOX 360. The main PC gets the most use - even my two oldest boys prefer to play on the PC. The Wii, while fun for a few minutes gets the least use of all and the XBOX 360 gets a fair amount of use.
The main challenge to the desktop PC platfom in my eyes would be a notebook or gaming console that has equal or more power in a more compact unit.
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# RE: Desktop PC Platform: Statistical ObituaryDavid Ramsey 2010-08-19 08:34
Being more interested in the "enthusiast market", I'd like to see year to year sales figures for things like motherboards and discrete video cards...if they're available.
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# RE: RE: Desktop PC Platform: Statistical ObituaryRobert17 2010-08-19 12:36
Good point. There are a host of shops within a few square miles that stay pretty busy upgrading/repairing even modest off-the-shelf PCs. To say nothing of the growing number of enthusiasts that are spawned from others.
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# RE: RE: RE: Desktop PC Platform: Statistical ObituaryDavid Ramsey 2010-08-19 12:41
I'm not convinced that there are "growing numbers of enthusiasts"....
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# RE: RE: RE: RE: Desktop PC Platform: Statistical ObituaryRobert17 2010-08-19 12:53
Not to convince, but, I travel quite a bit. Yesterday I was in a mid-sized town and happened across a PC parts store. One of the guys inside said that they'd just moved in (kinda obvious from all the packing materials) from a smaller storefront. He also said that it was their third in the general area, having two more in similar mid-sized towns. What struck me was that there were no complete PCs for sale. Nothing buy components. When I asked him about this his eyes lit up and he said the enthusiast craze was running rampant. Not the first time I'd heard this while on the road. Yes, this is anecdotal and perhaps to you, isolated. But I'm seeing it more and more.
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# Future Niche Market MaybeRealNeil 2010-08-19 09:30
I just can't see the desktop going extinct anytime soon or even in many years. It's true that many of us have our portable toys that are connected and that each one of them can do a small part of what a desktop is capable of, but when I get home, and want to connect, it's on one of my desktops. When I want to play a game there's no way that I'll be doing it on a 3" screen when I have a 24" screen, and an extremely powerful gaming PC to do it with. So while it's true that desktop PC sales are down, it's because all of the little devices that big business has convinced us that we really need are so expensive. We still love our PC's and will always love them as they continue to develop and grow even more powerful and capable over the years. Remember too, that good PC's, while becoming faster and more powerful, are getting less expensive every day.
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# RE: Desktop PC Platform: Statistical ObituaryDave 2010-08-19 09:33
You know, as far back as I can remember (well at least since the PSX was released in 1994) this has been a topic of discussion. To be honest, smart phones, gaming consoles and the like have a long way to go before they can actually replace a desktop PC. I use my Android based smart phone to check email and do quick web browsing, but when I actually need to do work or actually want to browse websites at a good click. I just don't see this happening in the near future, however stranger things have occured.
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# Desktops will disappear when desks disappearPaul A. Mitchell 2010-08-19 11:47
not before then.

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# RE: Desktop PC Platform: Statistical ObituaryRobert17 2010-08-19 12:33
It is also good to remember that there are many PCs still in service that were purchased five or more years ago. New tech items will sell hot for a while, finding their audience and niche; and competition will drive them all forward for a period of time. Then the next new gadget will appear to entertain and enthrall. The PC itself has evolved over the years from a device for businesses running not much more than Lotus 123 and a couple of document/reporting apps to a full fledged business necessity, game station, communication and storage medium. Will other products offer as much? Perhaps over the next 50-100 years we'll have a bracelet that houses all the data ever generated by everyone since the beginning of time, immerse the bearer in holographic virtual reality and commucicate with the denizens of the next galaxy. But until then, I suspect desktops are going to still be very much in vogue.
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# RE: Desktop PC Platform: Statistical ObituaryRobert17 2010-08-19 12:48

This makes for a good, although lengthy, read as an adjunct to your article.
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# RE: Desktop PC Platform: Statistical ObituaryImad Najem 2010-08-20 06:46
These figures only take notice of off the shelf PCs.

Anyone not gaming will either go with off the shelf PCs, lap/nettops or phones. Additionally, I don't know of anyone that has these gadgets that does not also have a PC (weather Mac or IBM clone) or one or more consoles.

I started with off the shelf in the late 80's; migrated to upgrading my systems in the mid 90's and now I buy and put my own systems together. I don't know of anyone that does not buy his own components and put a nice PC system together these days as a gamer.

This article only considers a snap shot of what really is going on.
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# ImpossibleEylev 2010-08-20 16:09
A laptop is a laptop and a PC is a PC.. no matter how you put, the performance on a laptop will never be as good as a PC..
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# Hear Me Hear Meiampc 2010-08-20 18:29
"Sex, drugs, and rock n roll" - Before there was a PC...
"PC Gaming, red bull, and more PC Gaming" - this is now!
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# The desktop isn't going anywhereC.B.F. 2011-03-22 19:54
All the time I hear this common phrase. "the desktop is dead" this clearly false. the desktop is dead for the OEM's like dell and hp but not for the PC enthusiasts and gamers. even if smartphones, laptops, tablets, and net books take over the world of the average user it would never be able to compete performance wise against gaming PC's and enthusiast PC's that were built by real hardware enthusiasts and PC gamers. A laptop with a sub 2 GHZ
dual core CPU can never match an over clocked six core CPU. The oem's thrive on this kind of ignorance. so that they can produce a $1200 all in one and rip off the average user when you could get faster performance out of a $400 desktop. As long as the CPU manufacturers are making faster and even more amazing cpu's and trying to push the limits of desktop computing the motherboard manufacturer will be making boards for these cpu's and soon everything else will follow. the desktop isn't dead for us hardware enthusiasts. its evolving now as its being quickly freed from the OEM's grasp. Just look at newegg their selection of parts just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Naturally the OEM's want you to think that the desktop is dying so that they can force you to throw out your old pc and buy a new every 2 years!
Sorry Dell,Hp but us enthusists and gamers aren't going anywhere. we will continue to build pc's weather you like it or not! and no smartphone, tablet, netbook, all in one, or notebook is going to stop us!
Long live pc gaming!
Long live the desktop!
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# RE: Desktop PC Platform: Statistical ObituaryBrian 2012-02-01 11:44
The desktop will not die for a long time.

There is no better more effective way to use a computer than to sit at a desktop, in terms of efficiency. That's not to say that mobile machines don't add very real function. They do. I've got a bunch of them. But it is to say that the desktop is still the best way to compute. Even typing on a desktop replacement laptop slows my typing down 2 to 1. On an Android tablet? 20 to 1. And this is just basic typing. Doing a complex task? There is nothing like a strong x86 chip and all kinds of resources (memory, etc.).

Desktops may not grow much more in terms of market penetration. But they won't go way either.
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# Looks like I called it...Olin Coles 2012-05-23 15:02
Hewlett-Packard plans to cut 27,000 jobs as the growing popularity of smartphones, the iPad and other mobile devices makes it tougher for the company to sell personal computers.
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# RE: Desktop PC Platform: Statistical ObituaryDoug Dallam 2012-05-23 15:27
Yep. Most people don't need computers. The vast majority of people don't. They only need to access Facebook, Email, and Spotify or iTunes which they can do on their phones. If they work on a computer for work, that's enough for them.

It's a social thing. Computers are for old people. They don't give younger people what they need--attention--like Facebook does, and they don't give them anything they want, like iTunes and Facebook, that they can't get from Smart Phones.

But since their screens are so small, they don't like reading information online either, so they become virtual sub-classes removed from society, except for a small hub of interaction, usually Facebook.

This is supported by the fact that most college and university students have a laptop because they need it for research and other college level endeavors. Some don't, using college computers to do all of their school work. In other words, college students need the tool whereas the vast majority of the population do not.

What is interesting, though, is that when I have younger people over to my house--the 20 something generation who do not have computers--and they see my triple monitor set up pushing music from one screen to my home theater system, plus having everything else in front of them, iTunes, Spotify, Shoutcast, and other information, they all seem to gravitate towards my work station. I invariably find them sitting in my custom chair actually using the "computer."
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# Not dead yetpaul 2012-05-23 15:37
I would not us HPs woes to predict a broad market claim. I am in the desktop chassis business (one of the largest in the world) and our desktop business is still growing. Maybe we are gaining market share so even then I would not make a broad market statement. However our business has shifted to developing markets and they are buying PCs and not Smart phones. Brazil is now the 3rd largest computer market in the world. NA trends are not global trends. I don't think there is any argument the role and even the design of a desktop will change over the next years. I have some pretty interesting desktop products in development.
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# RE: Not dead yetDoug Dallam 2012-05-23 15:46
That's a really god point. The problem is that smaller is the future, like everything. In the not so distant future, some called something like a "Personal Interaction Device" that incorporates a phone and a computer powerful enough to run any game or app will become reality. In other words, you can have a small phone like device that can everything a home computer can do, even give you cinema graphics wearing special glasses.

Phones are not that yet.
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# Lenovo reports soaring PC Sales in NApaul 2012-05-23 15:47

Again don't use HP's state of affairs as a snap shoot of the market.
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# RE: Lenovo reports soaring PC Sales in NADoug Dallam 2012-05-23 20:31
I love good support for a position. Nice job. Also, even if the future is small, and it definitively is, that doesn't mean HP or anyone else need necessarily go out of business or layoff workers. That's just bad business. I mean, make things smaller HP. Sorry if you can't keep up with the market.
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# PC sales worldwide have tumbled, data from IDC showsOlin Coles 2013-04-10 15:05
"Global sales of PCs fell 14% in the first three months this year, the biggest fall since research firm IDC started tracking the industry in 1994."

PC sales worldwide have tumbled, data from IDC shows:
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