The PC market continues to slump but not all PC makers are suffering equally. We break down the winners and losers.
5. Mac sales send mixed messages.
For at least the first half of the PC slump, MacBooks and iMacs seemed relatively impervious to the larger market's struggle. This resiliency might be fading: Apple's U.S. market share dropped year-over-year, although IDC and Gartner disagree by how much, and the company also shipped fewer units.
Should Apple be concerned? It's hard to say. Macs are obviously a small part of the Apple's iOS-dominated bottom line. Plus, OS X has gained global market share in the last year, albeit modestly. Apple's sales also aren't being propelled by enterprise refreshes like those of Lenovo, HP and Dell, which suggests Macs are performing relatively decently among consumers.
And though Apple's market share is modest, it devours a huge chunk of the industry's profit because it's the only manufacturer that sells high-margin computers in vast numbers. Apple also appears to have deliberately constrained its inventory, which might mean the company is trying to find the right supply-demand balance to sustain its place in the market, and which would somewhat explain the shipment reduction. Apple, which just refreshed its iMac line, is expected to launch a variety of new OS X products in coming months, including a redesigned Mac Pro and Haswell-based MacBook Pros later this year, and a MacBook Air with Retina display some time in 2014.
6. Tablets continue to cannibalize PC sales.
Both IDC and Gartner reiterated that tablets are cannibalizing PC sales. Tablets are approaching a sort of equilibrium with PCs in developed markets such as the United States but continue to eat heavily into desktop and laptop sales in emerging markets. An August IDC report said tablet growth is slowing modestly as markets mature, and as phablets and wearable tech begin vying for consumer dollars.
7. Asus and Acer are crumbling.
The new shipment figures were great for Lenovo, mostly positive for Dell and HP, and mixed for Apple -- but downright terrible for Asus and Acer. Both manufacturers shipped fewer PCs than they did in the third quarter of 2012, and both lost substantial market share. Neither ranked among the top five U.S. vendors, and Apple, despite slowing sales, might break into the global top five for the first time merely because Acer and Asus, who rank fourth and fifth internationally, are fading so fast. Both companies have shifted more of their attention to tablets.
8. Things are just as bad as they look for PCs.
PCs and PC operating systems aren't going extinct any time soon, but the PC market probably still hasn't hit rock bottom, and will never return to its glory days. The third-quarter numbers failed to improve from a meager baseline, even though sales should have been better in recent months due to the release of computers with Intel's Haswell processor, which improves battery life and graphics performance and makes thinner notebooks possible. Time will tell if sales improve over the holidays.
Server Market SplitsvilleJust because the server market's in the doldrums doesn't mean innovation has ceased. Far from it -- server technology is enjoying the biggest renaissance since the dawn of x86 systems. But the primary driver is now service providers, not enterprises.