PC Shipments Show First Drop in Five Years

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According to research firm IDC, PC shipments were down 1.8 percent during the last quarter of 2008 and are expected to decline by more than 8 percent during the first half of 2008. The declines follow five years in which the sector almost always showed double-digit growth every year. However, IDC seems to detect what may be light at the end of the tunnel: the research firm expects small positive growth in PC shipments by the end of the year, making the total decline for 2009 somewhere around 4.5 percent.

"Slackening demand in the consumer market is stifling the engine of growth for U.S. PC shipments," said IDC’s research manager for personal computing Richard Shim, in a statement. "In conjunction with an increasingly negative scenario in the commercial market, the U.S. PC industry is seeing a substantial drop in volume. When the PC market rebounds, we expect the commercial replacements to take a larger role in the recovery."

Overall, IDC sees the worldwide PC market driven more strongly by the need to replace systems than in years past, driven in part by a shift toward portable and notebook computers which typically have a shorter useful lifespan than desktop systems and fewer paths for upgrades or extending system life. IDC sees tough economic conditions having a significant impact on sales in growth markets in Latin America, the Asia Pacific region, Central and Eastern Europe, and the Middle East and Africa: shipments to those markets could see double-digit declines over the next three quarters. However, IDC does not see the PC industry getting itself into the same kind of trouble as the automotive or financial industries during the economic downturn, noting the industry overall has considerably more room for pricing competition and consolidation.