Netbooks Brighten PC Sales Outlook

By Jessica Davis  |  Print this article Print

Worldwide PC shipments didn't fall as dramatically as had been expected, but their decline in Q1 still marked the biggest drop since 2001. A new report from IDC says the firm has grown more optimistic about growth towards the end of 2009 and especially into 2010

Worldwide PC shipments didn’t fall as sharply as expected in Q1 – dropping just 6.8 percent – 1.4 percent better than previously forecast.

But the decline still marked the sharpest decrease since Q3 of 2001, according to market research firm IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker.

IDC notes that positive activity at the end of the quarter helped improve the actual results over what had been forecast. However, the firm says, key economic indicators and the commercial sector have remained weak.

Netbook shipments pushed PC sales higher, contributing 5.7 million to unit volume in Q1. However, traditional notebook shipment unit volume declined by 3.1 million over the same period a year ago. The switch pushed revenue down, with mini notebooks contributing $2.2 billion in Q1 while the value of traditional notebook shipments declined by $8.4 billion compared to the same period last year.

"The economic crisis continues to dampen PC demand and force changes in the market," says Loren Loverde, director of IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker, in a prepared statement "Mature regions are navigating the changes better than emerging regions in the short-term as finances remain more liquid, but from 2010 forward emerging regions will have the advantage in both growth and volume. Meanwhile, the concentration of growth in the consumer segment and in evolving categories like mini notebooks is quickly raising the stakes of competition."

IDC says it expects netbook pricing to rise as more "robust" models become available, and shipment growth will slow with the release of thin-and-light Intel CULV and AMD Cogno-based systems this fall.

While growth in mature markets has dropped significantly over the past two quarter, IDC says it expects these markets to stabilize and improve going forward. Consumer demand, supported by declines in average selling prices (ASPs) and gained strength from growth in netbooks.

IDC is now forecasting that shipments in the United States are still expected to decline by just over 2 percent for 2009 and see less than 1 percent growth in 2010.

Emerging markets saw dramatic shipment declines as lack of credit and currency devaluation continued to shrink resources for channel financing, according to IDC.

The picture in Asia/Pacific proved to be a little brighter, however, as shipments came in slightly above forecast, driven by government spending on infrastructure improvements and vouchers issued to stimulate consumer spending. IDC forecasts PC growth for the rest of 2009, reaching close to 12 percent for 2010

"Despite a relatively slow first quarter, industry supply chain checks suggest that the worst is over and we are starting to be more optimistic about volume growth at the end of the year and especially into 2010," says Bob O'Donnell, IDC's vice president, Clients and Displays, in a prepared statement. "New product introductions coming this fall, including low-cost, thin-and-light consumer portables, low-cost Intel Atom-based all-in-ones, and, of course, Windows 7, should provide a spark that helps to push market towards positive shipment growth over the next 12 months."


Jessica Davis covers the channel for eWeek and Channel Insider. Her technology journalism career began well before anyone heard of the World Wide Web and has included stints at Infoworld, Electronic News/EDN, and the Philadelphia Business Journal. Her work has also appeared on CNN and Forbes.com. She has covered hardware, software and networking, as well as the business side of technology. She has won several journalism awards, including a national ASBPE award for best staff-written column, and was named Marketing Computers hardest working tech journalist on their inaugural list of top tech journalists. Jessica can be reached at jessica.davis@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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