Shipments of personal computers are on the rise once again and should see sustained growth over the next few years, according to IDC's latest "Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker" released Monday.
Following a down first half in 2009, global shipments of PCs came alive in the second half, helping to eke out annual growth of 2.9 percent and putting the segment back in the black. Gains were due largely to shipments of portable computers, which rose 18.4 percent in 2009 over 2008. On the consumer end, purchases of notebooks jumped 38.5 percent for the year.
"PC volume continued to grow in 2009--fairing much better than in 2001, when a smaller recession produced a decline in PC volume," said IDC research analyst Jay Chou. "The positive 2009 results reflect lower prices and the fact that PCs are increasingly a must-have product."
The commercial and business PC market remained sluggish throughout last year but showed a slight recovery in the fourth quarter with growth of just under 1 percent. The much-vaunted Netbook finally showed some kinks in its armor as its growth slowed in the final quarter while other notebook categories rose 22 percent, said IDC.
For 2010, PC shipments are expected to grow 12.6 percent. Emerging markets have already done their fair share to stimulate the market and are likely to contribute growth of 18.5 percent this year. More mature markets will add growth of 7.2 percent this year, with double-digit gains following in 2011.
Portable PCs will remain the key driver of growth in both the consumer and business markets, grabbing a 70 percent share of all personal computers shipped by 2012, noted IDC. Desktop PC shipments will continue to fall across the world except in the Asia/Pacific region (excluding Japan), helping to keep them in slightly positive territory over the next few years.
PC sales are another story. Despite the dramatic rise in computer shipments, revenue will grow much slower, rising 5 percent this year and almost 7 percent next year. Overall, sales of personal computers are not likely to exceed their 2008 numbers until 2012. And with lower PC prices, the industry would need to ship 140 million more computers than it did two years ago, IDC said.
Despite the much-anticipated launch of Apple's iPad and other potential tablets, IDC doesn't see those devices having much impact on the growth of personal computers. But the firm does expect PC vendors hit by low prices and high competition to try different tricks to boost sales.
"With lean margins and further market consolidation remaining a harsh reality for the foreseeable future, vendors are increasingly looking to a mix of volume and specialized products to grow revenue, including new combinations of portability, performance, and the intriguing possibilities of touch computing," said Chou.