The PC Industry Takes a Road Trip

Carl Weinschenk

There is heartening and interesting news on the PC sales front.


The good news is that sales are rebounding from the depths of the recession. It's not surprising that portable devices are driving the rebound. But, coupled with the end of the bad economic times, this is as good a time as any to recognize that the PC industry is fundamentally changed.


IDC reports that in 2010, the PC industry will enter a five-year period of double-digit growth. This year worldwide growth will be 12.6 percent greater than 2009 and will reach 333.2 million units. It predicts growth rates between 13.9 percent and 11.3 percent will follow for the next four years.


It's important to note the strength of laptops and other mobile devices segments. Says the TechWeb story discussing the findings:

Driving the increase will be portable PCs, which are expected to account for 70% of the global market by 2012. Meanwhile, desktop PCs will see only slightly positive yearly growth through 2014, with declining shipments in all regions except Asia/Pacific, excluding Japan.

IDC points out that revenue recovery will be slower. That makes sense, since laptops and netbooks are cheaper than desktops. It also suggests that vendors have to get used to the volume-over-unit-cost strategies over the long haul.

Gartner released numbers two weeks ago that also are optimistic. It projects that 366.1 million PCs will ship this year, which would be 19.7 percent more than the 305.8 million that moved globally in 2009. Spending is thought likely to advance 12.2 percent and reach $245 billion. That is a big leap from the firm's December forecast, which saw an increase of 13.3 percent in shipments and 1.9 percent higher revenues.

Gartner also sees mobile growth as the driver. Said research director George Shiffler:

We expect mobile PCs to drive 90 percent of PC growth over the next three years. In 2009, mobile PCs accounted for 55 percent of all PC shipments; by 2012, we expect mobile PCs to account for nearly 70 percent of shipments.

The extent of growth of mobile computers is illustrated by iSuppli's finding that Acer "came within a hair's breadth" of displacing Dell and claiming second spot, after HP, in the worldwide PC market. Acer-which features mobility-expanded by 21 percent in 2009. In raw numbers, the expansion was 31.8 million units, to 38.485 million. Dell dropped 9.9 percent. The vendor-the denizen of the the Top 10 that declined-saw shipments shrink from 43.3 million in 2008 to 38.959 million last year. HP retained the top spot with 59.62 million units shipped, a 19.7 percent market share. Its growth was 7.4 percent.


As the long recession finally ends, demand increases and slick new devices continue to appear, the numbers will become even more weighted toward mobile computing. Not a surprise -- but certain something to acknowledge.

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