Preston Gralla

Is the PC apocalypse upon us? Latest sales figures say it might be.

March 06, 2014 10:24 AM EST

PC shipments had their deepest decline every in 2013, and 2014 doesn't look much better, according to IDC's latest forecasts. Does this mean that the PC apocalypse is finally upon us?

There's no good news in IDC's latest numbers. Worldwide, PC shipments dropped 9.8% in 2013, the "most severe contraction on record," in IDC's words. Those figures include both desktop PCs and portable PCs. In 2014, the slide will continue, falling another 6% to 296 million from 2013's 315 million. As Computerworld notes, that will mean that fewer PCs will ship in 2014 than shipped back in 2008, when approximately 300 million shipped.

Looking into the future, IDC sees only declines, although not as precipitously as in 2013 and 2014. By 2018, 292 million PCs will ship, slightly lower than 2014's 296 million.

This will hit Microsoft hardest of all, because it dominates the PC market, and so it will see the greatest declines. Microsoft CFO Amy Hood projects a drop in Windows licensing revenue for the March 2014 quarter to between $4.1 and $4.3 billion between 1% and 6% less than the the March 2013 quarter, according to Computerworld. And IDC analyst Rajani Singh wrote in a note to clients a few weeks ago:

"There is little question that the PC market remains a drag on Microsoft, and the company's own statements reflect that."

But is the sky really falling? Yes and no. IDC's latest projections confirm what everyone knows: The PC's best days are behind it. Never again will it be the world's dominating computing device. Mobile devices have become more important. And in the future, in what's being called the "Internet of Things," everyday objects from refrigerators to cars to possibly even clothing will dominate.

That's the bad news for PCs. Here's the good news: Even as far out as 2018, more than 290 million PCs will ship every year. That's a tremendous amount of hardware, a tremendous amount of revenue for Microsoft and others, and a tremendous number of new powerful computers being put in people's hands every year. So, the PC apocalypse is not drawing close, and the sky is not falling. But still, the PC's best days are well past it.