Worldwide PC shipments totalled 68.6 million units in the fourth quarter of 2018, a 4.3% decline from the fourth quarter of 2017.
This is according to preliminary results by market analyst firm Gartner, which notes that for the year, 2018 PC shipments surpassed 259.4 million units, a 1.3% decline from 2017.
Gartner analysts say there were signs for optimism in 2018, but the industry was impacted by two key trends.
"Just when demand in the PC market started seeing positive results, a shortage of CPUs [central processing units] created supply chain issues. After two quarters of growth in 2Q18 and 3Q18, PC shipments declined in the fourth quarter," says Mikako Kitagawa, senior principal analyst at Gartner.
"The impact from the CPU shortage affected vendors' ability to fulfil demand created by business PC upgrades. We expect this demand will be pushed forward into 2019 if CPU availability improves.
"Political and economic uncertainties in some countries dampened PC demand. There was even uncertainty in the US, where the overall economy has been strong, among vulnerable buyer groups, such as small and midsize businesses. Consumer demand remained weak in the holiday season. Holiday sales are no longer a major factor driving consumer demand for PCs."
According to Gartner, the top three vendors boosted their share of the global PC market as Lenovo, HP and Dell accounted for 63% of PC shipments in the fourth quarter of 2018, up from 59% in the fourth quarter of 2017.
It points out that Lenovo surpassed HP to move into the number one position in the global PC market in the fourth quarter of 2018.
A major factor for Lenovo's share gain was credited to a joint venture with Fujitsu formed in May 2018, Gartner explains, adding that Lenovo also had a strong quarter in the US. The company has recorded three consecutive quarters of double-digit year-over-year shipment growth, despite the stagnant overall market.
PC shipments in EMEA totalled 20.9 million units in the fourth quarter of 2018, a 3.8% decline year over year, the market analyst firm says.
It notes there were some positive signs, such as Western Europe's demand for desktops and ultramobiles that fuelled small and midsize business shipments, while the government sector also benefited from further Windows 10 renewals.
Demand in Russia continued to recover, as well as in some parts of Eastern Europe, such as the Czech Republic and Hungary. However, demand was not strong enough to offset declining shipments to consumers, Gartner says.
The Asia/Pacific PC market totalled 24.2 million units in the fourth quarter of 2018, a 4.6% decline from the fourth quarter of 2017, the firm says.
Due to uncertainties of the US-China trade relations, and the volatile equity market, there was cautionary demand, especially among consumers and the small and midsize business segment, it notes.
In the fourth quarter of 2018, PC shipments in China declined 2.5% year over year, but shipments grew 5.6% sequentially.
For the year, worldwide PC shipments totalled 259.4 million units in 2018, a 1.3% decrease from 2017, says Gartner, explaining this was the seventh consecutive year of global PC shipment decline, but it was less steep compared with the past three years.
"The majority of the PC shipment decline in 2018 was due to weak consumer PC shipments. Consumer shipments accounted for approximately 40% of PC shipments in 2018 compared with representing 49% of shipments in 2014," Kitagawa says.
"The market stabilisation in 2018 was attributed to consistent business PC growth, driven by the Windows 10 upgrade."