The worst may be over for the PC industry, as worldwide PC shipments are on pace to reach 285-million units in 2009, a 2% decline from 2008 shipments of 291-million. According to Gartner, this is more optimistic than its June forecast, which anticipated a 6% unit decline in 2009.
"PC demand appears be running much stronger than we expected back in June, especially in the US and China," says George Shiffler, research director at Gartner. "Mobile PC shipments have regained substantial momentum, especially in emerging markets, and the decline in desk-based PC shipments is slowing down. We think shipments are likely to be growing again in the fourth quarter of 2009 compared with the fourth quarter of 2008."
Despite the increasingly positive outlook for the PC market, Gartner does not envision global shipments experiencing growth this year except as a very best-case scenario. PC units contracted 4,4% in the first half of 2009 compared to the first half of 2008.
For PC shipments to post growth for the year, shipments would have to grow at least 4% in the second half of 2009 compared with the second half of 2008. Gartner analysts said that scenario seems just a bit beyond the market's capability at this point, even assuming Windows 7 enjoys an enthusiastic reception when it is released on 22 October.
"We don't expect the release of Windows 7 to significantly influence PC demand at year-end," Shiffler says. "At best, Windows 7 may generate a modest bump in home demand and possibly some added demand among small businesses. However, we aren't expecting most larger businesses, governments and educational institutions to express strong demand for the new operating system until late 2010. We're actually more concerned that vendors will overestimate the initial demand for Windows 7 and end up carrying excess inventories into 2010."
Mini-notebooks continued to grow strongly in the second quarter of 2009 but faced increasing competition from lower-priced mainstream notebooks. They also continued to put tremendous downward pressure on PC prices in general and consumer mobile PC prices in particular.
Gartner has revised its mini-notebook forecast upward. Worldwide mini-notebook shipments are now forecast to reach 25-million units in 2009, up from Gartner's projection in May of 21-million shipments. Shipments are now forecast to reach 37-million units in 2010. Even so, mini-notebooks' share of the overall mobile PC market is now expected to level out a bit sooner than before.
"At least unit-wise, 2010 should be a considerably better year for the PC market," Shiffler notes. "We now expect units to grow 12,6% next year as mobile PC growth continues to gain momentum and desk-based PC growth turns positive, thanks to revived replacement activity. However, we don’t see the on-going declines in PC average selling prices slowing down significantly next year, so spending is likely to be more or less flat in 2010."