IDC high on PC sales

The research firm nearly doubles its previous forecast for worldwide PC unit growth this year. The new optimism is a switch from analysts' earlier predictions.

The PC market outlook for 2002 may not be as dire as many analysts thought.

Research firm IDC on Wednesday nearly doubled its earlier forecast for worldwide PC unit growth this year from 1.8 percent to 3 percent.

Worldwide PC unit sales declined by just over 5 percent in 2001, the market's worst year since 1985. In recent years, the market has seen high double-digit growth rates.

IDC said it revised its forecast due to several signs that show the PC market is improving more quickly than expected after last year's lackluster performance.

PC unit sales around the world, for example, grew slightly faster than expected in the fourth quarter of 2001, with the exception of the Asia-Pacific region, IDC said.

As a result, the firm believes that demand will increase across the board this year from both consumers and corporations. Some areas, such as Western Europe, are expected to pick up faster than others, such as Japan and the Asia-Pacific region.

"Economic indicators in the United States have finally begun to point consistently to a recovery...and given that productivity and confidence measures correlate closely with PC shipments, we can expect improving performance in the PC market through the year," said Roger Kay, director of client computing at IDC.

Fourth-quarter 2001 retail PC sales in the United States increased, for example, while overall demand for PCs rose in Western Europe. These are two of the larger markets in the world.

PC sales chart Cautionary note
Although its new forecast is more optimistic, IDC cautioned that it does not expect PC unit sales to really begin growing until the third quarter.

IDC predicts a year-over-year decline worldwide in PC shipments in the first quarter of 2002.

However, sales in the second quarter should be roughly equal with those in the second quarter of 2001. The firm expects that third and fourth quarters will grow by about 10 percent each, year over year.

IDC predicts 2003 will see worldwide unit shipments grow by about 11 percent.

The IDC forecast correlates with a Merrill Lynch report on the Taiwan PC market, issued Tuesday. Merrill Lynch predicted slight declines in the first and second quarters but a return to growth in the second half of the year for the Taiwanese market.