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Gartner throttles back on 2010 PC forecast

Worldwide shipments of PCs are expected to rise 19 percent for the year, but the market researcher says economic uncertainty points to somewhat less robust growth in the second half.

PC shipments in 2010 are likely to be healthy, but not quite as vigorous as earlier forecast, according to market researcher Gartner.

Worldwide PC shipments are forecast to hit 367.8 million this year, a nice jump from the 308.3 million shipped in 2009, according to a Gartner report released Tuesday.

The 19.2 percent gain comes courtesy of a rebound in the PC market over the first half of 2010.

But uncertainty in the U.S. and Western European economies could diminish results for the rest of the year. Gartner has trimmed its estimate for growth in second-half PC shipments to 15.3 percent, a drop of 2 percent from its previous forecast in May.

Though consumer buying kept the market afloat in 2009, the industry is afraid that demand may slow, a fear which by itself might stall shipments.

"There is no doubt that consumer, if not business PC, demand has slowed relative to expectations in mature markets," Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner, said in a statement. "Recent dramatic shifts in the PC supply chain were in no small part a reaction to fears of a sharp slowdown in mature-market demand. However, suppliers' risk-aversion is as much a factor in these shifts as any actual downshift in demand."

In pulling back on shipments, PC vendors may be erring too much on the side of caution. Despite industry worries, consumer PC demand is likely to stay strong even if the economy fails to rebound. People now view personal computers as necessities rather than luxury items, says Atwal, and will keep buying them, even ahead of other consumer electronic devices.

Companies may also be forced to rejuvenate their PC purchases as they find they can no longer delay refreshing their current machines. Though that may not help the industry in 2010, it does bode well for 2011.

"Businesses that delay replacing much longer risk alienating employees, burdening themselves with more service requests and support costs, and ultimately facing higher migration costs when they eventually migrate to Windows 7," Atwal said. "The bottom line is that businesses need to refresh their PCs sooner rather than later. Thus, the full bloom of the long-awaited professional PC refresh can't be more than a few quarters ahead."