PC and Tablet Shipments Expected to Continue Slow Decline

There has been much debate over the past several years whether the tablet was going to replace the traditional PC. People who enjoy tablets insist it could happen while PC purists insist it never could.

But the interesting trend, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC) is that both markets are declining. They lump them into one category of “personal computing device shipments.” According to their WorldWide Quarterly Personal Computing Device Tracker, they predict the market for this category will continue a slow decline over the next five years.

IDC Prediction

IDC predicts traditional PCs and tablets will decline 3.3% in 2019. This is despite the overall shipments in 2018 of commercial PCs showing good growth, as that overall market still showed a decline. They expect this trend to continue throughout the next five years as the market drops to 372.6 million units in 2023 with an annual growth rate of -1.2%.

Detachables are actually expected to grow in that time span with an annual growth rate of 4.6%. IDC forecasts that this category of PC will have more of an impact in the commercial space with vendors focusing their attention on enterprise and education markets.

While Chrome-based devices find a use in schools, they’re expected to continue their trend with more detachable Chrome tablets landing in the marketplace.

The news isn’t so good for slate tablets like the iPad. The IDC believes they will continue to show a decline with an annual growth rate of -4.4%. That should help solve that debate of whether tablets are going to replace the traditional PC.


Within the traditional PC space, desktop computers will continue with their declining numbers while notebook PCs show an increase. This leads to a combined very slight decline of just -0.4% in that five year period. Gaming PCs, however, while in an emerging market in 2018, will show some challenges because of the CPU shortage.

The IDC believes that advances in PCs will be the driving force behind the trends, with a belief that notebooks will be the dominant form of personal computing and that they will comprise 46% of the total personal computing devices market by 2023.

The Outlook for 2023

“Notebooks/Mobile Workstations and Detachable Tablets are expected to take 53% of all PCD shipments by 2023, a clear majority,” said Jay Chou, research manager of the PCD Tracker at IDC.

“Even as personal computing takes place on a myriad of devices and emerging venues like the cloud, IDC believes there remains a place for portable devices that can evolve to fit changing tastes while still retaining important but under-appreciated features like a physical keyboard.”

The research director for Devices and Displays at DC, Linn Huang, adds that while the market for personal computing devices “remains in persistent decline, the constitution of the market continues to churn for the better.”

Huang adds, “And with ray-tracing ramping up and 5G-connected, dual-screen, and foldable devices on the not-too-distant horizon, consumers and professionals will likely find something compelling at the premium end.”

Do you agree with this five-year forecast overall for personal computing devices or with the individual trends? Do you believe detachables will be such a big computing force in the future? Add your thoughts in the comments below.

Laura Tucker Laura Tucker

Laura has spent nearly 20 years writing news, reviews, and op-eds, with more than 10 of those years as an editor as well. She has exclusively used Apple products for the past three decades. In addition to writing and editing at MTE, she also runs the site's sponsored review program.

One comment

  1. “Do you agree with this five-year forecast overall for personal computing devices or with the individual trends?”
    What I find astounding is that the IDC exclude smartphones from the category of “personal computing devices”. I wonder what labyrinthine logic did they use. Today’s smartphones are more powerful and capable than PCs of fairly recent past.

    While at one time, desktops, laptops and tablet were general purpose devices, they have become niche devices, used only for specific jobs. Smartphones have taken over as the general purpose devices. Not only can they provide the computer services that most users use but they also make phone calls and they fit in the user’s pocket. For most people there no longer exists a need for a dedicated computer.

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