Americans want better PCs for the dollar, HP and Dell outgrew Apple

Now that 2014 has come to a close, we can definitively say that the PC market has turned around in the US, growing 5% after years of decline.

Without much category competition, PC innovation grew stagnant over the decades. Then tablets came and easily beat PCs that catered to low cost, light computing needs. PC makers tried new things, but the technology wasn’t ready. New, experimental devices were either too heavy, too slow, too short on battery life or too expensive. Windows 8’s bad reputation certainly didn’t help.

2014 was a comeback because the entire PC value curve shifted upwards significantly. You got far better PCs for a given price, and customers — now used to great smartphones and tablets — demanded and expected quality. Only the top PC makers met that expectation.

Meanwhile, the tablet form factor saw little change so naturally, it made sense for customers to upgrade their old PCs for a dramatically better experience. The tablets they already had were just fine.

Now that we are on the brink of “good enough” convergence between PCs and tablets, I expect the hybrid form factor to grow even more as people seek to save money and do work on their tablets.

Last year, I consistently beat the gong for big display smartphones, and that was before the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus made the notion popular. This year I am beating the gong for hybrid devices.

Well, that was a longer lead-in than I expected to write. On with actual numbers from IDC.

pcmarket

HP and Dell posted an impressive year, growing 13% and 15% respectively despite being the top two biggest PC makers, especially when compared to market which grew 5%. Apple and Lenovo did well too.

I wrote about this before: the PC market is seeing a flight to quality. The top tier manufacturers are growing while the lower tier ones are contracting. The “Others” category saw an 18% drop in shipments.

This goes back to users expecting a better PC experience for a given dollar. PC makers that were able to meet that expectation flourish, while those that can’t die.

This is why Apple has done so well; and why HP, Dell and Lenovo have done even better.

That’s for market share anyway. When it comes to profit share, no one holds a candle to Apple.

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