Gartner is now projecting 19% growth in worldwide PC shipments for 2010, predicting a jump from 308.3 million units sold in 2009 to a total of 367.8 million in 2010. But, the research company also sees some trouble brewing in the second half of the year. Here's a compilation of statements from Gartner analysts on the current state of the PC market, as well as my quick commentary at the end.
PC growth: Slowing down again?
Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner:
"The PC market revived in the first half of 2010, but the real test of its resilience is yet to come. We have reduced our forecast for second-half 2010 PC growth to 15.3 percent, approximately 2 percent below our previous forecast, in light of the uncertain economic outlook for the United States and Western Europe. There is no doubt that consumer, if not business PC demand has slowed relative to expectations in mature markets."
Computers now a 'must-have' for consumers
"Consumers buoyed the PC market in 2009 as businesses delayed their purchases. The slow pace of economic recovery and austerity measures in Europe have made PC suppliers very cautious in 2010. However, consumer demand is likely to remain strong even if the economic recovery stalls because consumers now view the PC as a relative 'necessity' rather than a 'luxury' and will continue to spend on PCs, even at the expense of other consumer electronic devices."
Business upgrades still in holding pattern
"Businesses that delay replacing [PCs] much longer risk alienating employees, burdening themselves with more service requests and support costs, and ultimately facing higher migration costs when they eventually migrate to Windows 7. The bottom line is that businesses need to refresh their PCs sooner rather than later. Thus, the full bloom of the long-awaited professional PC refresh can't be more than a few quarters ahead."
Netbooks are falling out of favor
Raphael Vasquez, Gartner research analyst:
"We still think the mini-notebook has a place in the mobile PC market, but not as a substitute for a standard mobile PC. Indeed, the recent decline in mini-notebooks' share of the mobile PC market reflects a general realization among buyers that mini-notebooks are less-than-perfect substitutes for standard low-end laptops. Buyers who once would have bought a mini-notebook based solely on its low price now seem more inclined to buy a low-end standard notebook, especially since the prices of the two have converged. Mini-notebooks are slowly but surely carving out a market niche for themselves as companion devices. However, the emergence of media tablets is a growing threat to that niche."
Impact of iPad
George Shiffler, Gartner research director:
"The iPad hasn't had much of an impact on mini-notebook units so far, if only because it is generally priced higher than most mini-notebooks. However, we anticipate lower-priced iPad imitations will begin to take larger bites out of mini-notebook units as they are released next year."
There has been a lot of pent up demand in the PC market this year because both consumers and businesses put off purchases whenever possible during the economic slow down in 2008 and 2009. Gartner's data now shows that consumers are the ones driving the PC growth in 2010 much more than businesses.
That's pretty consistent with what TechRepublic is hearing from IT leaders. They still aren't doing massive across-the-board PC refreshes yet, although many of them claim they are planning upgrades. Gartner's impatient warning to businesses that they face higher support and migration costs by waiting rings pretty hollow.
Analysts and industry vendors have been singing that tune to CIOs for years and yet IT departments continue to wait until machines fail or there's a business need to replace them, in most cases, and that strategy has resulted in staggered upgrades that in general put less strain on the IT department than a massive refresh.
I also take issue with Gartner's assertion that the iPad is not having an impact on netbook and low-end notebook sales. I think it's pretty clear that many of the 3+ million iPad customers bought them as companion devices for light computing -- not laptop replacements -- and that same demographic is one of the primary consumers of netbooks and cheap notebooks. And, recent data has shown that iPad sales have taken a nice chunk out of the notebook market, at the expense of other leading laptop makers.
Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the upcoming book, Follow the Geeks (bit.ly/ftgeeks).