PC losing its charm

Written by Sudhir Chowdhary | Updated: Dec 2 2013, 08:47am hrs
Not long ago, the purchase of a personal computer (PC) used to be an all-family affair with mundane issues like how much time each individual will be spend on the machine, which websites to visit and the ones to avoid, which music, games and movie CD/DVD to play, etcdeliberated and sorted out before the arrival of the computer in the household. The excitement used to be equivalent to the purchase of a television, high-end music system or a video cassette recorder; we are referring to the 90s era, a time when not many people had mobile phones and there were few internet connections at home.

Nowadays, the excitement is still there but it has transformed to the acquisition of the latest smartphones, tablets and sleek, ultra-responsive and portable notebook computers, also called ultrabooks in tech circles. For evidence on the dwindling fortunes of the humble PC, take a look at some of the latest industry reports. According to research firm IDC India, the overall India PC shipments for Q3 2013 stood at 3.24 million units, that is, a year-on-year growth of 8.4% over Q3 2012 and a quarter-on-quarter slide of about -8.3% over Q2 2013. Special education projects in states like UP and Tamil Nadu and a much delayed spending in the year from the BFSI segment might have been a face saver for the beleaguered vendors, but by and large, demand for consumer PCs has remained suppressed.

Interestingly, the overall India PC shipments for Q2 2013 stood at 3.53 million unitsa substantial year-on-year growth of 24% over Q2 2012 and a quarter-on-quarter surge of about 30.2% over Q1 2013. State-led manifesto-driven spending on notebooks steered commercial investments in the Indian PC market in Q2 2013. Overall in the first half of CY 2013, the consumer market has largely remained flat over CY 2012. And the third quarter, where festive season buying is witnessed, is historically the most important quarter for the consumer market. The annual performance of the consumer segment of the market is usually determined by this quarter.

To make matters worse, IDC expects Q4 to crumble because we anticipate seasonality and price hike to disrupt PC buying in the quarter ending December, says Manish

Yadav, market analyst at the research firm. Additionally, elections in Delhi, civil issues in the state of Andhra Pradesh are further expected to impact the overall buying in some of these larger states. Excitement around product transitions to Haswell family of processors and the launch of Windows 8.1 may not drive demand in the near future.

We know the industry is changing and yes the PC market is declining as new generation form factors gain momentum, remarked Hewlett-Packard India managing director Neelam Dhawan, in a recent interaction with FE. I dont expect the market to gain momentum until the GDP growth picks up, since there is a direct correlation between the two. When the economy does well, people want to invest in their business and in IT, which is great for us.

In contrast, the explosion of mobile devices is there for everyone to notice. According to CyberMedia Research (CMR), India registered 62.9 million mobile handset shipments for the period July-September (Q3) 2013. During the same period, 11.1 million smartphones were shipped in the country. Figures for the third quarter are not available, but over 1.15 million tablets were sold in the April-June quarter by as many as 70 domestic and international vendors. And more than 73.5 million mobile handsets were shipped in India during the same period. India ships 10,000 tablets every day, CMR reckons.

The PC makers have realised that they have to focus on this growing trend to exist in the marketplace. Take for instance, Hewlett-Packard which is busy promoting its New Style of IT concept. The expectation of instant connection to information anytime, from anywhereis driving a New Style of IT that is business-led, with technology supporting organisational goals. It is efficient, open, flexible, scalable and collaborative. For our customers, this New Style of IT promises simplicity, greater agility, speed and lower costs, says Rajiv Srivastava, president, Printing and Personal Systems Group, Hewlett-Packard India.

This is a new world, where cloud, security, big data, and mobility are driving a need for comprehensive converged solutions to better connect organisations with customers, citizens, communities, partners, and suppliers. That is why CIOs, in India and elsewhere, need to start thinking less about machines and more about how technology is delivered and consumed, and how it can solve their issues, says Rajiv. We are well-positioned to address the challenges and opportunities of this New Style of IT in India. Our heritage of supporting open systems and partnering, along with our critical mass in hardware, software and services, are tremendous assets to have as we plan for 2014 and beyond.

In terms of vendor share, Hewlett-Packard India sustained its lead with 32.3% share, yet again accounting nearly one-third size of the India PC market in Q3 2013. The vendor continued to receive a boost in shipments as part of a large education project in UP.

Also, their ability to maintain better pricing against competition tied with aggressive marketing campaigns on both desktops and portable PCs, helped them scale up their dominance in the India PC market, says Kiran Kumar, research manager at IDC.

Lenovo secured second place with a share of 13.6% in Q3 2013. Their consumer PC business grew at a striking 44.5% over Q2 2013. Focus on expanding channel reach mixed with dominance in all-in-ones and a growing share in modern retail helped them drive shipments in Q3, comments Manish Yadav from IDC. Dell took third spot with market share of 11.8%. Dell has been very successful with the integration of touch in their mix. Also they have been able to thrive in volume price bands in the recent past, observes IDC.

India is one of the youngest population countries in the world, with an average age of 25 years. The countrys young generation demands the latest in tech innovations at the tip of their fingers, says Peter Chang, regional headSouth Asia & country managerSystems Business Group, ASUS India. This $12.7-billion, Taiwan-based technology firm the worlds top three consumer notebook vendor and the maker of the worlds best-selling motherboardsis fiercely competing with traditional PC biggies like Hewlett-Packard and Dell, as well as fellow Asian brands like Lenovo, Samsung, LG and Acer to increase its presence in the Indian market.

ASUS has been a key player in the evolution of the ultrabook segment. It has also engineered the convertible markets with products like the Taichi, PadFone, Transformer Series, to name a few. Recently, it introduced Transformer Book T100, a 10.1-inch ultra-portable laptop with an Intel Atom Bay Trail quad-core processor and a detachable high definition display that can be used as a standalone Windows 8.1 tablet. It also believes that there will be a strong consumer preference in India for its products like the Fonepad 7, a 7-inch Android device with full voice telephony for people who want smartphone features with a tablet-size screen.

There is a broad consensus among the vendors that the computer industry is evolving and so are the user buying patterns and trends. The world is moving towards mobility and convergence, therefore the traditional devices are expected to be affected. At their end, the vendors are enticing the new-age consumer looking to augment his lifestyle with innovative and smart devices.