The number of PCs shipped in Europe, the Middle East and Africa decreased by 20.2 percent in the first quarter of 2013 compared to the same period the year before, according to new data published by IDC today.

Total shipments dropped to 21.8 million over the three-month period, made up of 8.3 million desktop PCs, down 19.6 percent, and 13.6 million laptops, down 20.6 percent.

It’s a familiar story. Consumers are interested in other hardware form factors, particularly tablets and smartphones, which in turn has caused traditional PC sales to slip. As these devices become more powerful, so does their functionality, relegating the old tower and external monitor combo to only heavy-duty and work-related tasks.

IDC says the contraction in Western Europe was particularly severe, with an overall decrease of 22.5 percent. The market research, analysis and advisory firm reported today that almost all countries experienced a double-digit decline, with southern European countries the most affected due to problems in the eurozone.

“Tablets and phones continued to capture customer attention and spending, while in the corporate space decelerating renewals and the lack or delay in IT investment directly impacted commercial results,” the IDC said in a statement.

“The public and education sectors across most countries also remained under pressure, announcing further cuts and austerity measures, adversely impacting PC demand.”

Businesses, government departments and educational institutions have for a long time been a reliable source of PC sales. The economy continues to struggle in these areas, however, and that’s forced many business owners to hold on to their existing hardware and operating systems. For large companies in particular, a full upgrade can be particularly impressive, so holding out for an extra year can represent huge savings.

Hewlitt-Packard is still top dog

Hewlitt-Packard (HP) shipped the highest number of desktop PCs and laptops over the first quarter of 2013, with 4.039 million units. Lenovo, in second, was the only hardware manufacturer to see its shipments increase from the same period in 2012, rising by 11 percent to 2.595 million.

Acer experienced a 30.4 percent drop, down to 2.374 million, while Dell sunk to 2.228 million, down from 2.673 million the previous year. The latter’s poor market share has encouraged Blackstone to withdraw its bid to buy the company, citing revised operating income projections and a “rapidly eroding financial profile”.

The outlook might be bleak for PC shipments in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, but for tablets and smartphones, it’s never been stronger.

Image Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images