Global PC shipments have fallen yet again in the third quarter of 2016, according to preliminary results from Gartner.

The PC shipments for the third quarter stood at 68.9 million units—a 5.7% drop compared to the same period in 2015. Gartner analysts said this marked the eighth consecutive quarter of PC shipment decline, the longest duration of decline in the history of the PC industry.

PC manufacturers faced many challenges, which included weak back-to-school demand, and on-going low demand in the consumer market, especially in emerging markets.

"There are two fundamental issues that have impacted PC market results: the extension of the lifetime of the PC caused by the excess of consumer devices, and weak PC consumer demand in emerging markets," said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner. "According to our 2016 personal technology survey, the majority of consumers own, and use, at least three different types of devices in mature markets. Among these devices, the PC is not a high priority device for the majority of consumers, so they do not feel the need to upgrade their PCs as often as they used to. Some may never decide to upgrade to a PC again.

"In emerging markets, PC penetration is low, but consumers are not keen to own PCs. Consumers in emerging markets primarily use smartphones or phablets for their computing needs, and they don't find the need to use a PC as much as consumers in mature markets."

The PC market continues to consolidate, as the top six vendors combined for a record high 78% of PC shipments in the third quarter of 2016 (see Table 1). Lenovo continued to be the worldwide market leader based on preliminary PC shipments, but HP Inc. is nearly tied for this top spot, and these rankings could change when final shipment results are published. Lenovo has recorded six consecutive quarters of year-over-year shipment declines, while the nearest competitors, HP Inc. and Dell, have recorded shipment growth since the second quarter of 2016.

Gartner PC shipments table Table 1: Preliminary Worldwide PC Vendor Unit Shipment Estimates for 3Q16 (Source: Gartner)

The stabilisation of the PC business market was a key factor for HP Inc.'s shipment growth, as a majority of its revenue was generated from the business segment. Dell's shipment growth exceeded the regional average in most regions.

Asia-Pacific PC shipments totalled 24.7 million units in the third quarter of 2016, a 7.6% decline from the third quarter of 2015. Early indicators show that the PC vendors performed better than in the second quarter as they lowered channel inventory coming into the quarter and replenished stock for seasonal back-to-school demand.

PC shipments in China are estimated to have declined 4.8%. Consumer sales in China were driven by notebook shipments, while the business market was driven by desktop PCs because of cost and computing effectiveness.

PC shipments in EMEA surpassed 19.2 million units in the third quarter of 2016, a 3.3% decline from the same period last year. The EMEA market's decline was mainly associated with very weak demand in Eastern Europe, Eurasia, and the Middle East and Africa. In the U.K., Brexit had no immediate impact on PC sales, but the depreciation of the British pound against the U.S. dollar caused some vendors to indicate prices will increase through the end of 2016 and into 2017.