Earlier this week, research firm IDC released a report capable of sending even the peppiest hardware manufacturer into the deepest funk: PC shipments declined some 8.6 percent year-over-year for the third quarter of 2012. “Continued pressure from other products such as tablets and smartphones, as well as uncertainty over the impact of Windows 8 and the economic outlook, contributed to depressed shipments—largely as expected,” read IDC’s note accompanying the data. “Nevertheless, despite an already conservative outlook, the results show the vulnerability of PCs and the loss of mindshare among buyers who until recent years have flocked to back-to-school promotions in the third quarter for PCs.” Hewlett-Packard saw its shipments dip 16.4 percent over the past year, while Dell fell 14 percent and Acer dropped 9.6 percent during the same time period. (“All Others” dropped 12.2 percent.) On the other hand, Lenovo enjoyed yearlong growth of 10.2 percent, almost matched by Asus with 10 percent. In IDC’s eyes, Lenovo’s growth during a tough period stemmed largely from “its methodical approach to build out channel partnerships and acquire key OEMs in markets outside it home turf, with varying degrees of success.” IDC viewed the market as potentially returning to positive growth by the end of the year, thanks to a flood of new devices from manufacturers. Nonetheless, the numbers illustrate the challenging environment faced by PC makers and, by extension, companies such as Microsoft that draw the lion’s share of their revenues from the PC ecosystem. Given that tumble in PC shipments, Microsoft’s push into tablets with Windows 8 takes on a new resonance: if the upcoming operating system doesn’t succeed in giving the company more market-share in the mobile device category, things could eventually become very dark indeed for its future revenues and presence. However, the dip in PC shipments could have something of a silver lining for mobile device manufacturers and the software vendors who build their software, as it suggests the center of gravity for more people’s computing lives is shifting from PCs to tablets and smartphones. And it’s potentially good news for those builders of cloud-based apps and services that power so many mobile devices.   Image: IDC