PC market on fast track to recovery

IDC says PC shipments will record double digit growth by 2013, buoyed by growing demand for laptops and netbooks

PC shipments worldwide will grow by double digits on a yearly basis through 2013, buoyed by increased commercial spending and growing demand for portable PCs like laptops and netbooks, IDC said in a study issued on Wednesday.

Shipments have either fallen or been flat during the first three quarters of 2009 compared to last year, partly due to the difficult economic environment that restrained consumer and enterprise spending, IDC said. However, falling PC prices and an upcoming commercial PC refresh cycle could help shipments rebound, the research firm said.

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"An aging installed base of PCs to replace, along with government aid and declining average selling prices are key ingredients for a recipe for resurgence of PC shipments into the commercial market segment," said Richard Shim, research manager for PCs at IDC, in a statement. "The combination of a recovering commercial market and a healthy consumer market will lead to double digit shipment growth through 2013," he said.

The total number of PCs shipped worldwide could reach 321.4 million next year, compared to 291.4 million units in 2009. Shipments will continue to grow year-over-year, and could reach 444.4 million units by 2013.

In a highly commoditized market, PC vendors are also trying to set themselves apart by introducing new technologies in laptops to attract more buyers, said Jay Chou, research analyst at IDC. PC makers are introducing ultrathin designs, and adding LED (light-emitting diode) panels and touchscreens in PCs, IDC said.

"Beyond stabilizing their business, PC vendors are trying to position themselves for gains as the market recovers," Chou said.

But as consumers make a transition to mobile products like laptops and netbooks, the demand for consumer desktops will slow down, IDC said. Worldwide portable PC shipments will almost double to 312.5 million units in 2013 from 165.2 million units in 2009. By contrast, desktop shipments will be nearly flat, growing to 131.9 million units in 2013 from 126.2 million units in 2009.

A lot of the PC shipment growth will be driven by emerging markets, which will record "double digit" growth, while the mature markets record "steady growth," IDC said. Emerging markets already account for half of the worldwide PC shipments.

IDC also projected that shipments of mini-notebooks, or netbooks, could be threatened as PC makers introduce ultrathin laptops at competitive price points. Ultrathin laptops are a category of lightweight laptops that are as portable as netbooks and provide adequate performance to run most applications such as high-definition multimedia or casual gaming. Ultrathin laptops could limit the share captured by netbooks in the portable space.

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