A number of analysts firms have of the course of this year lowered expectations for global PC sales but gave manufacturers some hope that the industry would show growth.

Now, iSuppli has abandoned hope.

iSuppli says the back-to-school season “appears to be a bust” and a variety of factors – the economy, tablets, mobile devices and smartphones – have combined to lead its analysts to forecast the first decline in global PC sales since 2001.

The report, issued Wednesday, is filled with plenty of gloomy information for the wizards of PCs at Lenovo, HP, Apple, Dell and others to chew.

iSuppli now projects a 1.2 percent decline in sales to 348.7 million “units” from a year ago.

“Not since 2001—more than a decade ago—has the worldwide PC industry suffered such a decline,” the firm reported.


“There was great hope through the first half that 2012 would prove to be a rebound year for the PC market,” said Craig Stice, senior principal analyst for computer systems at IHS iSuppli, in the report.

“Now three quarters through the year, the usual boost from the back-to-school season appears to be a bust, and both AMD and Intel’s third-quarter outlooks appear to be flat to down.

“Optimism has vanished and turned to doubt, and the industry is now training its sights on 2013 to deliver the hoped-for rebound. All this is setting the PC market up for its first annual decline since the dot-com bust year of 2001.”

Ouch. – again.

Firms such as IDC and Gartner are due to issue third quarter shipment reports any day – perhaps any hour – and offer their own projections for the rest of the year.

Lenovo, now No. 2 behind HP at such a small a margin it could be a rounding error, could very well become No. 1. But there’s no doubt the surging popularity of tablets – which are not counted in PC stats by these firms – as well as smartphones that do more and more is hitting PC sales.

On Tuesday, Lenovo rolled out four new “convertibles” – laptops that can become tablets with detachable screens – and it is readying Windows 8 tablets as counters to the iPads and all the other similar touch screen devices. But if Apple does in fact launch a smaller, cheaper iPad “mini,” will PC sales fall even more?

That prospect is enouch to give any PC worker a migraine.

As for the rest of the year, iSuppli says some factors could help or further hurt sales:

  • “How much impact will Windows 8 really have toward boosting the PC market in the fourth quarter?
  • “Will continuing global economic concerns neutralize whatever hype or interest has been generated by ultrabooks?
  • “Will mobile computing gadgets such as tablets and smartphones win over PCs during the crucial holiday selling season, taking precious consumer dollars and keeping PC sales at bay?”

Industry hopes are now already turning to 2013.

“There are signs that a strong rebound could still occur in 2013. While IHS has reduced its forecast for them, the new ultrabooks and other ultrathin notebook computers remain viable products with the potential to redraw the PC landscape, and the addition of Windows 8 to the mix could prove potent and irresistible to consumers,” iSuppli reported. “Whether a newly configured PC space could then stand up to the powerful smartphone and tablet markets, however, remains to be seen.”