FORTUNE -- Let's say the definition of "PC" is the same one we applied five years ago, before tablets. By that definition, the market seems to be collapsing.
Shipments of PCs in the first quarter fell by 13.9% from the same quarter in 2012. The forecast decline had been 7.7%, according to International Data Corp.'s Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker. That makes the worst quarter ever tracked by IDC, which started issuing the reports in 1994.
Mini Notebooks saw the biggest decline on the low end, but the whole market was affected by what IDC calls "weak reception for Windows 8," Microsoft's (MSFT) answer to the rise of the tablet. The operating system that incorporates elements of tablet OS's "not only failed to provide a positive boost to the PC market but appears to have slowed the market," said IDC's Bob O'Donnell, in a statement. He said Windows 8 is just too radical a departure from what consumers have come to expect from Windows, and too expensive. The OS has "made PCs a less attractive alternative to dedicated tablets and other competitive devices."
The numbers tell the tale. Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) still leads the market, but its worldwide shipments fell by a breathtaking 23% from the first quarter of 2012. U.S. shipments fell by about the same rate. Dell (DELL) saw declines of 10% globally and 14% in the United States. About the only "good" news came from Lenovo (LNVGY), where worldwide shipments remained flat, though growth in the U.S. was in the double digits.
The difference for Lenovo, says Ars Technica's Andrew Cunningham, is that consumers believe it to be a solid and reliable supplier of quality PCs, while HP and Dell are both struggling. Dell is in the midst of a restructuring that will take the company private and make it more of a services firm than a hardware company -- similar to what IBM (IBM) did, culminating in the 2005 sale of its PC business to Lenovo. "Consumers and businesses are going to notice and respond when your company acts like it might pull out of the PC market," Cunningham concludes. And Lenovo isn't acting that way.
Still, with the overall market falling at such a rate, it seems clear that PCs are becoming mainly office-only devices now that people can meet most of their personal-computing needs -- like interacting with people, reading news stories, and watching videos -- on tablets and phones.
Using the 2010 HP campaign as a template to measure the damage Apple might suffer.
FORTUNE -- Citi's Glen Yeung on Monday tried to put a dollar figure on the potential cost to Apple (AAPL) of China's state-sponsored propaganda campaign, now entering its third week.
Apple, he points out, is not the first foreign company to be targeted by the People's Republic. YUM brands (part of KFC) saw sales fall 20% year over MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Apr 1, 2013 11:29 AM ET
Also: Why HP should have listened to its CFO; is Foursquare overvalued?
HP should have listened to its CFO [FORTUNE]
As Fortune wrote in its May cover story How Hewlett-Packard lost its way:
"...with no warning to Apotheker, Lesjak made an impassioned case against the acquisition before the board. "I can't support it," she told the directors, according to a person who was present. "I don't think it's a good idea. I don't think we're ready. I think it's MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Nov 21, 2012 5:30 AM ET
Why can't the two leading PC market tracking firms get their acts together?
FORTUNE -- In separate reports on the state of the worldwide personal computer market issued Wednesday, Gartner and IDC agreed about one thing: The quarter that ended in June was a miserable one for traditional PC vendors.
Gartner called the market "flat." IDC's term was "stalled." Both reported a decline in global shipments of 0.1%. Both attributed it to MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jul 11, 2012 7:00 PM ET
How Sean Parker bumbled his new startup's launch; HP CEO Meg Whitman opens up.
Airtime makes an awkward first impression [FORTUNE]
The company aims to offer frictionless video networking that allows you to chat with your existing friends or with strangers based on location or interests you share on Facebook. Like predecessor Chatroulette.com, it's easy to switch to a new chat partner, but unlike that service, which became known for its shock MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Jun 6, 2012 1:04 PM ET
With that, it could buy Intel, HP and Dell and still have change left over
FORTUNE -- Bullish Cross' Andy Zaky has published his estimates for Apple's (AAPL) projected growth in cash and marketable securities through the end of fiscal 2013.
If Apple's earnings grow as he expects, the company's holdings -- currently at $110 billion -- will reach $205 billion by September 2013. That's more than the combined market caps of MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jun 1, 2012 10:59 AM ET
May -- not April -- was the cruelest month for quality tech stocks. And not just because of the botched Facebook IPO.
By Kevin Kelleher, contributor
FORTUNE -- April, as T.S. Eliot famously said, is the cruelest month. But for investors who put their faith in tech stocks, it's hard to look back on the past month and feel good. No, the merry month of May has been cruel. And there's MOREMay 31, 2012 6:01 AM ET
Is that really why Apple has become, per Politico, a "punching bag" for lawmakers?
FORTUNE -- I might feel differently about Apple's D.C. Lobbying Effort Has Yet to Ripen, the 1,450-word piece posted on Politico Wednesday, if I hadn't just listened to Take the Money and Run for Office, This America Life's brilliant hour-long expose of how Washington, D.C., influence peddling really works.
By the end of the radio piece (available as a podcast), MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - May 10, 2012 7:01 AM ET
Léo Apotheker's disastrous tenure as HP's CEO revealed a dysfunctional company struggling for direction after a decade of missteps and scandals. Can his replacement, Meg Whitman, fix the tech giant?
By James Bandler with Doris Burke
FORTUNE -- A few months after she took over as the CEO of Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) last September, Meg Whitman held one in a series of get-to-know-you meetings with employees. To say the audience, a group MOREMay 8, 2012 5:00 AM ET
Why can't Gartner and IDC just get along?
You used to be able to explain the discrepancies between Gartner's and IDC's quarterly market share reports by the difference in their methodologies.
Gartner counted sales to end users. IDC counted sales into "channel" -- i.e. devices sold to stores and other distribution points, but not necessarily to customers.
But when trying to understand the discrepancy between Apple's (AAPL) U.S. market share in the reports MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Apr 12, 2012 7:42 AM ET
|Yahoo to buy Tumblr for $1.1 billion: Report|
|Stocks on a roll: Yahoo, Microsoft stoke appetite|
|My very cheap day|
|Prison exclusive: Bernie Madoff can't sleep|
|The Winklevoss twins are Bitcoin bulls|