Post-PC era

Gartner: 2013 saw the 'worst decline in PC market history'

January 9, 2014: 9:21 PM ET

U.S. sales of Apple's Mac grew 28.5% last quarter, says Gartner. IDC says they fell 5.7%.

AppleInsider chart. Click to enlarge.

AppleInsider chart. Click to enlarge.

FORTUNE -- Apple (AAPL) was the PC maker that zigged when the market zagged, according to a Gartner report on 2013 sales issued Thursday. [IDC begs to differ. See below.]

Overall, the news was grim. The industry as a whole suffered its seventh consecutive quarter of declining shipments -- down 6.9% for the quarter and 10% for the year. It was, as Gartner's report bluntly put it, "the worst decline in PC market history."

Even Apple's good news -- an estimated 28.5% increase in U.S. unit sales year over year, according to Gartner -- looked better than it was. That's because last quarter's Mac sales are being compared with the same quarter in 2012.

That was the quarter when the iMac's production schedule got "screwed up"  (Tim Cook's verb) and hardly any of the new models made it out the door before the quarter ended. As a result, Mac sales fell 22% when the industry grew nearly 7%. And the 26-quarter streak during which the Mac outpaced the rest of the PC industry came to an abrupt end.

[UPDATE: It's not unheard of for IDC and Gartner to disagree, but their estimates on the Mac's U.S. sales last quarter are even further apart than usual -- about 576,212 Macs. Gartner has Apple shipping 2,168,212 Macs in the quarter, up from 1,687,881 last year. IDC has Apple shipping 1,592,000, down 5.7%.]

One of the things that's hurting PC makers now, according to Gartner, is a structural change in the way high tech is spreading in the developing world.

"In emerging markets," said Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa in Thursday's press release, "the first connected device for consumers is most likely a smartphone, and their first computing device is a tablet. As a result, the adoption of PCs in emerging markets will be slower as consumers skip PCs for tablets."

That sounds a lot like the post-PC era that Steve Jobs envisioned in 2010, except most of the smartphones and tablets sold in emerging markets are Androids, not Apples.

Below: Gartner's spreadsheets.

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Gartner

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