February 5, 2014 5:48 am JST

Sony's PC exit symptomatic of market shift

TOKYO -- Sony's planned sale of its personal computer operations underscores how far this business has fallen in the eyes of Japanese and U.S. manufacturers, once the top dogs in the field.

     Global PC shipments totaled 59 million units back in 1995, when Microsoft released its Windows 95 operating system. The figure has increased roughly sixfold since then, securing the desktop computer's reign as the leading information technology device.

     However, production of PCs also became easier as the market expanded. Such companies as Taiwan's Acer and China's Lenovo Group made huge strides, fueling price competition.

     This market shift forced U.S. IT pioneer IBM to sell its PC operations to Lenovo in 2004. Hewlett-Packard, the American firm that was once the global leader, was went under several rounds of restructuring, including personnel cuts. Japan's NEC, which controlled half the domestic market, opted for a joint venture with Lenovo and handed over control of its PC business to the Chinese firm.

     After Apple launched the iPad in 2010, tablets began to take away demand. And in emerging markets, smartphones are becoming the main device for connecting to the Internet, bypassing PCs.

     Global PC shipments have been declining since peaking at 363.87 million units in 2011, with shipments in 2013 down 14% from that point. The drop has been especially sharp in the consumer PC market, which is Sony's forte.