PC Growth Down: IDC Forecasts Lower Sales Among Consumers

By Erin Harrison June 06, 2011

PC sales have definitely hit a rough patch, and it’s not just netbooks that are to blame. With consumers adding other smart devices to their line-up of tech gadgets, PC sales are expected to grow at a slower rate, according to the latest figures releases by International Data Corporation.

Worldwide PC shipments are now expected to grow by just 4.2 percent in 2011, down from a February forecast of 7.1 percent, according to IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker, which said “a combination of declining first quarter shipments, an increasingly conservative economic outlook, relative saturation among developed market consumers, and competing products will lead to slow growth in 2011 before a rebound in 2012.”

Small laptops – a.k.a “netbooks” – have driven growth in PC sales in the last few years, but the draw of low prices for mini notebooks has given way to a number of factors, including “relative saturation following this boom cycle, recognition of their limitations, and better competition from both mainstream notebooks and media tablets, which increased 31 million and 17.9 million units in 2010 respectively vs. just 1.3 million for mini notebooks,” according to the IDC’s report.

But consumers are adding on to their armies of smart devices, said Bob O’Donnell, vice president of clients and displays at IDC, which has meant that their dollars are going to other technology.

“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 O’Donnell. ”And this has shifted the technology share of wallet onto other connected devices.”

Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD, theorizes that netbook sales are more likely to “blame” versus sales of the iPad, TechZone360 recently reported.

“The explosion of computer sales when Windows 7 launched, as well as the huge increase in netbook sales at that time, are much more to blame for weak consumer PC sales growth than the iPad,” Baker said.

For 2012 through 2015, IDC predicts growth is to fall in the 10 percent to 11 percent range.

Consumer PC purchases have been a basis of PC growth over the past five years, the IDC said. According to the latest figures, consumer PC shipment growth averaged 18.9 percent from 2005 to 2007, almost 7 percent faster than commercial shipments. During 2008 and into 2009, consumer growth was actually faster at more than 21 percent while commercial growth fell below 3 percent in 2008 and then dropped to -10.5 percent during the recession in 2009.

The company says the slow economic recovery, competition from smartphones and tablets and the fact that most households in the developed world already have PCs are holding back sales.

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Erin Harrison is Executive Editor, Strategic Initiatives, for TMC, where she oversees the company's strategic editorial initiatives, including the launch of several new print and online initiatives. She plays an active role in the print publications and TechZone360, covering IP communications, information technology and other related topics. To read more of Erin's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

Executive Editor, Strategic Initiatives

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