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Gartner More Upbeat On 2009 PC Shipments

The analyst firm said PC shipments will likely increase in the fourth quarter, but will be down year-over-year.
Gartner released a more optimistic forecast for PC shipments this year, saying it expects only a 2% decline from last year.

The market researcher had predicted in June that shipments would fall 6%, but the firm said Wednesday PC sales were running much stronger than expected, particularly in the United States and China.

"Mobile PC shipments have regained substantial momentum, especially in emerging markets, and the decline in desk-based PC shipments is slowing down," Gartner researcher George Shiffler said in a statement. "We think shipments are likely to be growing again in the fourth quarter of 2009 compared to the fourth quarter of 2008."

While the market is improving, Gartner said it did not see computer makers as a whole shipping more PCs this year than 2008, except as a "very best case scenario." In the first half of the year, shipments fell year-to-year by 4.4%, which means shipments would have to grow at least 4% in the second half to enter positive territory, Gartner said.

Gartner believes that kind of growth is beyond the market's capability, even if Windows 7 gets an enthusiastic reception when Microsoft releases the new operating system Oct. 22.

"We don't expect the release of Windows 7 to significantly influence PC demand at year-end," Shiffler said. "At best, Windows 7 may generate a modest bump in home demand and possibly some added demand among small businesses."

Gartner doesn't expect larger businesses, governments and educational institutions to start upgrading to Windows 7 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," Shiffler said.

Gartner also revised its forecast upward for netbooks, the fastest growing category of the PC market. Shipments of the mini-laptops will reach 25 million units this year, up from Gartner's May forecast of 21 million. In 2010, shipments will reach 37 million units, Gartner said.

Nevertheless, Gartner expects netbooks' share of the overall mobile PC market to eventually level out, as they face increasing competition from lower-priced mainstream laptops.

While helping to boost the overall number of PC shipments, netbooks, which typically run well under $500, will contribute to the overall decline of average selling prices for PCs. Shipments of laptops and desktops will increase by 12.6% in 2010 over this year, but industry revenue is likely to be "more or less flat" year to year, Gartner said.

Continued growth in the mobile PC market, coupled with a turnaround in the desktop market, will drive the increase in shipments next year, along with netbooks, as businesses and consumers step up the pace of replacing older systems, Gartner said.

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