PC shipments on the upswing

Research firm IDC raises its forecast for 2003 and 2004 worldwide PC shipments, citing evidence of a recovery in business spending.

John G. Spooner Staff Writer, CNET News.com
John Spooner
covers the PC market, chips and automotive technology.
John G. Spooner
2 min read
Market research firm IDC on Thursday raised its forecast for worldwide PC shipments this year and next, thanks in part to evidence of a recovery in business spending on computer equipment.

IDC now predicts that shipments of desktops, notebooks and servers in 2003 will grow by 11.4 percent compared with 2002, to 152.6 million units. The firm said in September that it expected shipments for the year to increase by 8.4 percent to 148.2 million units.

The forecast for 2003, which would eclipse the previous high of 140.2 million units set in 2000, also represents a major improvement from 2001, during which shipments declined by 3.9 percent year over year, and 2002, when shipments grew by only 1.7 percent from the previous year, IDC said.

IDC and other market research firms such as Gartner have several times this year revised their predictions for 2003 and beyond. Better-than-expected computer shipments and optimism about improvements in the world economy have influenced the most recent changes.

Third-quarter PC shipments, for example, were higher than expected, with increases of 15.7 percent and 14.1 percent, measured by IDC and Gartner, respectively. The two firms use slightly different methods of accounting for PC shipments, which create differences in their figures.

Another important factor played into IDC's latest increase. Business spending on computers has been weak over the last few years, especially in the United States, but now appears to be improving, said Roger Kay, an analyst at IDC.

"We've seen enterprise (sales) stabilize in the last couple of quarters, and it looks like it's growing now," Kay said. "I think what we're going to see is a better-than-expected performance in enterprise (sales), as the end-of-the-year budget season comes around...based on the need to finally refresh" aging computers.

Increased corporate computer spending would benefit many PC makers, including large companies such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard and IBM. Sales of computers--especially notebook PCs--to consumers also have been strong this year. Early returns from the beginning of the holiday season have been fairly positive, Kay said, helping to influence the new IDC forecast.

IDC also raised its forecast for 2004.

The firm, which had predicted that unit shipments would grow by 10.2 percent in 2004, now believes shipments will increase by 11.4 percent to 169.9 million worldwide in 2004.

Earlier this month, Gartner bumped up its prediction for worldwide PC shipments in 2003 to 164.3 million units, a 10.9 percent increase from 2002.

Gartner, which cited the better-than-expected third-quarter sales, had predicted that unit shipments would increase by 8.3 percent year over year to 161.3 million units. That forecast, released in August, was also an upward revision of an earlier prediction.