Gartner: PC Sales Still Slumping, But Look For Recovery In Q4

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Notebook shipments will continue to suffer for the next two quarters before rebounding at the end of the year, according to a new report from research firm Gartner. Even netbooks are feeling the sting of the economy, with sales slumping in that segment as well.

PC shipments are expected to reach 274 million units in 2009, a 6 percent decline from 292 million in 2008, the Gartner report said. However, the research firm expects PC shipments to rebound in the fourth quarter of this year, which will set "the stage for a healthy market recovery in 2010 with units forecast to grow 10.3 percent," according to the report.

This latest report has a slightly sunnier outlook than previous forecasts made this year by the research firm. In mid-May, Gartner anticipated that PC shipments would drop by 6.6 percent year over year, an update from a March report that anticipated a 9.2 percent drop in 2009.

"PC unit growth was stronger than we expected in all markets but Eastern Europe in the first quarter of 2009. In particular, consumer shipments were much stronger than we anticipated," George Shiffler, research director at Gartner, said in a statement. "However, professional shipments continued to struggle, and we think much of the growth in consumer units was due to vendors and the channel restocking inventories rather than an upsurge in demand."

Shiffler anticipates that PC shipments will continue to decline before eventually rebounding.

"We expect units to contract roughly 10 percent year over year in both second- and third-quarter 2009 before they post positive growth in the fourth quarter," he said.

Even netbooks, which Gartner calls "mini-notebooks," are feeling the crunch. The netbook segment posted its first quarter-over-quarter decline in first-quarter 2009. The reason for the decline, according to Gartner, is because of increased competition among manufacturers.

"While this was in part the result of the general contraction in PC shipments to the EMEA region, it also reflects increasing competition between mini-notebooks and low-end mainstream mobile PCs as the former evolve toward larger screen sizes, and the latter continue to drop in price. In effect, mini-notebooks are becoming just another value-based mobile-PC offering," said Shiffler in a statement.

According to Gartner, however, these ultramobile notebooks are cushioning the fall of the overall market segment, with the firm predicting that 21 million netbooks will be sold in 2009. In 2010, that number will jump to 30 million.

Gartner also predicts that 149 million notebooks will move this year, a 4.1 percent increase from 2008, but that growth will be short-lived. The research firm believes the notebook market will decline 12.8 percent as average selling prices plummet.

Desktops are predicted to account for 125 million units sold, a 15.7 percent drop from 2008, with spending expected to drop 26.6 percent.

"Both mobile PC and desk-based PC units are being held back by users extending PC lifetimes and delaying replacements in response to the ongoing economic slowdown," Shiffler said in a statement. "The good news for the industry is that delayed replacements won't be lost replacements. Our research indicates replacements should grow strongly in 2010 and 2011, helping to power the market's recovery."

Not even Microsoft will spur sales, with Gartner saying that the impending release of Windows 7 will have only a "modest" impact on the market.

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