The death of desktop computers has been mantra industry pundits have been muttering for at least a couple of years now. With that said, recent quarters have quieted some critics, as the computer market seem's to be nearing a more stabilized sales environment. Gartner's prediction earlier this year of about 276 million PC's sold, while a drop from 2013's 296 million units, makes it's clear consumers and businesses haven't given up on old-school desktops and laptops for work and home.
Now, with IDC's recent desktop sales data for 2014's Q3, it's becoming obvious that the demise of PC's was greatly exaggerated. Perhaps more surprising, is that it's several U.S.-based manufacturers who demonstrated some of the biggest gains in desktop and laptop sales, though China-based Lenovo (NASDAQOTH:LNVGY) remains the worldwide leader. One of the largest jumps in market share came from Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL); not exactly the first name that comes to mind in a discussion involving PCs.
Kudos to domestic manufacturers
With rumors swirling about a new tablet to be unveiled at its upcoming "special event," not to mention recently taking the wraps of its bigger display iPhone 6, and the even bigger iPhone 6 Plus phablet, Apple's desktop lineup takes a back seat to its mobile devices. And why not? It's not as if you'll see iFanatics camping outside an Apple Store waiting for the latest Mac introduction, as they did waiting on the iPhone 6's.
Despite playing second or third fiddle, Apple jumped up to number five on the global list of top computer and laptop sellers. With about five million units sold, Apple's got a ways to go to capture domestic kings Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) and the now privately held Dell. HP now commands an impressive 18.8% of the worldwide desktop market, up from 17.5% in Q3 of 2013. Dell's 10.44 million PCs moved last quarter puts it third on the list, still about 4.3 million units behind HP.
But Apple's improvement in desktop computer sales bodes well for future growth -- yes, it's odd to hear "desktop computer" and "growth" in the same sentence again -- and Apple now accounts for 6.3% of PCs sold globally, compared to last year's 5.7%. And domestically, still one of the strongest regions on the planet for desktop's and laptop's according to IDC, Apple stretched its lead over Lenovo, selling 2.26 million units compared to Lenovo's rather lackluster 1.85 million. And Apple's market share grew over 9% year over year, second only to Dell's U.S.-leading 19.7% improvement from 2013's Q3.
Some factors for iFans to consider
Largely due to its strength in emerging markets, Lenovo moved a record number of desktop computers last quarter. Its 15.7 million sold in Q3 earned Lenovo 20% of the global market, which translates to an 11.2% jump from Q3 of last year. That's a big mountain for Apple to climb, and it isn't likely to ever catch Lenovo and its multiple desktop and laptop alternatives.
However HP, after its somewhat stunning news last week that intends to split into two, separate entities, has some industry pundits wondering if that could translate to an opportunity for the likes of Dell, and possibly crack the door open for Apple. As an analyst with Endpoint Technologies Associates put it, "[C]ertainly the transition creates an opening for HP's rivals." Of course, he was referring to the two big boys on the block, Dell and Lenovo, but grabbing a share of HP's desktop computer business would certainly aid Apple in its quest to continue gaining share in what is quickly becoming a stabilized market.
Sure, Apple's price cuts on its desktop computer lineup helped push it up to number five across the globe, but it's still an impressive showing by what most consider a mobile device player. Not to mention, as desktop and laptops, mobile devices, and even homes and cars become interconnected -- a la the Internet of Things, or IoT -- Apple's mobile presence could help push its sales even higher.
Multiple operating systems on the hundreds of devices analysts predict will become a part of our everyday lives is a challenge every tech player with aspirations of becoming a significant IoT force. Industry leaders like Apple with its iOS iterations will have a much easier time "tying" all those IoT gadgets together, including desktop computers. Yes, we're talking about different scales than the Dell's and HP's of the world, and Apple's desktop computers aren't likely to ever become as crucial as its mobile devices, but growth in its often-overlooked desktop computer unit will still prove valuable to investors down the road.
Tim Brugger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Gartner. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.