Gartner: There's still profit to make from PCs thanks to 'ultramobiles' and gaming devices

The ultramobile premium segment is on pace to achieve revenue growth this year – the only segment set to do so
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Despite global shipments of traditional PCs falling from 343 million to 232 million over the last five years, Gartner says there are still profit opportunities to take advantage of.

"PCs are no longer the first or only devices users are choosing for internet access," said Meike Escherich, principal research analyst at Gartner. “In terms of revenue, the global PC market has contracted from $219 billion in 2012 to an expected $122 billion in 2016."

Many vendors in the mid-tier of the PC ecosystem are struggling. “They are severely reducing their regional and country-level presence, or leaving the PC market altogether," said Escherich.

“Between them, Acer, Fujitsu, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba have lost 10.5 percent market share since 2011. In the first quarter of 2016, Dell, HP Inc. and Lenovo gained market share but recorded year-over-year declines.”

Despite these worrying stats, Gartner believes that PCs are still able to deliver in areas that smartphones and tablets cannot, with larger screens, ergonomic keyboards, greater storage and more powerful computer processors.

"With an oversaturated market and falling average selling prices (ASPs), PC vendors must focus on optimising profitability to sustain growth," said Tracy Tsai, research vice president at Gartner.

The firm reported that despite a declining PC market, the ultramobile premium segment is on pace to achieve revenue growth this year — the only segment set to do so.

It is estimated to reach $34.6 billion, an increase of 16 per cent from 2015. In 2019, Gartner forecasts that the ultramobile premium segment will become the largest segment of the PC market in revenue terms, at $57.6 billion.

“The ultramobile premium market is also more profitable in comparison with the low-end segment, where PCs priced at $500 or less have five per cent gross margins,” said Tsai. “The gross margin can reach up to 25 per cent for high-end ultramobile premium PCs priced at $1,000 or more.”

The segment will continue to grow thanks to replacement demand for traditional PCs and the touch experience that the two-in-one market (tablets and hybrids) provides. While the ASP for the ultramobile premium segment is not expected to fall rapidly, it will eventually move toward $600 in constant-currency terms.

This situation, together with innovative two-in-one products, will entice users to not only replace their PC, but also look to upgrade to a device with more functionality and flexibility.

Gartner suggests that PC vendors adjust their portfolio of ultramobile premiums in markets such as North America, Western Europe, Greater China, Mature Asia/Pacific and Japan, where the ultramobile premium segment continues to grow.

Vendors and retailers/resellers should also capitalise on the long-term profitability of the gaming PC market, says Gartner.

While the gaming PC market is a very small market with only a few million units sold a year, the ASP of a gaming PC is significantly higher than that of a non-gaming PC. ASPs range from $850 for an entry-level gaming PC notebook to $1,500 for a premium model.

"The high-end, purpose-built gaming PC segment (for example, $1,000 or more) is where PC vendors should focus for long-term profitability, despite this segment's competitiveness," said Tsai.

Gartner also revealed that IoT is ‘ripe with opportunity’.

"Vendors could detect with sensors if a battery is getting too hot or a hard-disk drive is being overworked, and they could send an alert to customers to get PCs checked before they suddenly go down,” said Tsai. “This would save vendors' operating costs and also helps users with better service.”

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