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Tablets, other factors to dampen 2011 PC shipments

Hit by a variety of factors, global PC shipments are now expected to rise by just 4.2 percent this year, according to new data from research firm IDC.

Due to competition from tablets and other products, saturation in developed markets, and a sluggish first quarter, global shipments of PCs are now expected to rise by just 4.2 percent this year, according to IDC's Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker.

The new forecast, released today, is down from IDC's prior estimate of 7.1 percent growth in shipments for 2011.


PC shipments among consumers and businesses enjoyed a robust period from 2005 to 2007. Even during 2008 and into 2009, consumer PC growth stayed strong at more than 21 percent while commercial PC growth actually declined by 10.5 percent during the 2009 recession.

Despite the weak economy in 2009, demand for Netbooks kept the PC industry booming. But now shipments of even low-cost Netbooks have been dampened by a variety of factors, including saturation among consumers, recognition of their limitations, and competition from more mainstream laptops and from tablets.

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"Consumers are recognizing the value of owning and using multiple intelligent devices and because they already own PCs, they're now adding smart phones, media tablets, and eReaders to their device collections," said Bob O'Donnell, vice president of IDC's Clients and Displays unit. "And this has shifted the technology share of wallet onto other connected devices."

PC sales have also been affected by the still sluggish economy as consumers don't have the discretionary income available to justify such purchases. Overall, first-quarter PC shipments fell 1.1 percent from the prior year's quarter. Though growth managed to rise by 3 percent in the enterprise market, consumer PC shipments were down by 4.4 percent. This downward trend is expected to continue throughout the second quarter.

On the plus side, IDC is eyeing a rebound in both the consumer and business PC markets next year and beyond, with growth of 10 percent to 11 percent expected from 2012 through 2015. New chips and operating systems combined with lower prices and greater adoption in emerging markets will give PC shipments and sales a boost.

"The PC market has definitely hit a slow patch," Loren Loverde, vice president of IDC's Worldwide Consumer Device Trackers, said in a statement. "Nevertheless, the long-term growth drivers--first among which are growth in emerging markets, declining prices, and growing functionality--remain intact, and the product and design innovations under way will keep PC growth healthy in the long term."