PC use is growing rapidly worldwide, increasing at a compound annual growth rate of more than 12%, Forrester Research said in its report. That trend is expected to continue through 2015. By the end of 2008, more than 1 billion personal computers are expected to be in use globally.
While it has taken 27 years for the industry to reach 1 billion PCs, the next billion will take considerably less time because of advancing technology, lower prices, and global demand on the part of a technology-aware population, Forrester said. Emerging markets such as Brazil, Russia, India, and China are expected to account for more than 775 million new PCs by 2015.
"The industry can probably survive selling incrementally better hardware and software to the people who already have technology in their lives, but the vast majority of growth in the PC and related industries will come from emerging markets," Forrester researcher Simon Yates said in a statement.
Selling PCs outside of mature markets, however, is sure to carry its own risks. For example, vendors accustomed to average life cycles of four or five years for PCs in mature markets will find that people and business in other parts of the world will keep older machines longer, Forrester said. As a result, manufacturers will have to scale production differently.
High-tech companies that have launched programs for promoting PC use in emerging and untapped markets include Microsoft, Intel, and Advanced Micro Devices. Other major vendors, however, will have to get involved in order for the PC industry to scale production enough to ship fives the number of systems at a fifth the cost.
While use of the PC is expected to spread, whether it remains the familiar desktop or notebook remains to be scene. Companies like Intel and Microsoft are investing in what's known as the ultramobile PC, a device that has less functionality than larger computers but is far more mobile.