SAN FRANCISCO — Market research firm Gartner Inc. Tuesday (Aug. 31) revised downward its PC sales forecast for the second half of 2010, citing an uncertain economic outlook in the U.S. and Europe.
Gartner (Stamford, Conn.) said it now expects second-half PC sales to be up 15.3 percent compared to the second half of last year, about 2 percent lower than the firm previously forecast. For the year, Gartner expects worldwide PC shipments to total 367.8 million, a 19.2 percent increase from 308.3 million units shipped in 2009, according to the firm's latest forecast.
"There is no doubt that consumer, if not business PC demand has slowed relative to expectations in mature markets," said Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner, in a statement. "Recent dramatic shifts in the PC supply chain were in no small part a reaction to fears of a sharp slowdown in mature-market demand. However, suppliers' risk-aversion is as much a factor in these shifts as any actual downshift in demand."
Intel Corp. last week lowered its sales target for the third quarter, citing weaker than expected demand for consumer PCs in mature market. Some Wall Street analysts, including Christopher Danely of J.P. Morgan, have been warning for weeks that PC demand began to deteriorate rapidly in July. Earlier this month, market research firm International Data Corp. (IDC) said last month that demand for PC processors weakened during the second quarter and was expected to remain weak through August. IDC, which forecasts worldwide PC processor unit growth of 19.8 percent this year, said the second half of the year will likely see lower year-over-year growth rates than the industry notched in the first half of the year.
According to Atwal, consumers buoyed the PC market in 2009 while businesses delayed purchases, but the slow pace of economic recovery and austerity measures in Europe have made PC suppliers cautious in 2010. "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," Atwal said.
Gartner analysts said businesses will find it very difficult to delay PC replacements further. The age of the professional PC installed base is already at an all-time high, according to the firm.
"Businesses that delay replacing 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,” Atwal said. “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."
Mini-notebooks' impact on the PC market has peaked and is now waning, according to Raphael Vasquez, a research analyst at Gartner. Mini-notebooks' share of mobile PC shipments declined for the second consecutive quarter in the second quarter of 2010, falling under 18 percent, he said.
Mini-notebooks' share of the mobile PC market peaked in late 2009, when they accounted for nearly 20 percent of total mobile PC shipments, according to Gartner. Their share is expected to continue falling until it reaches around 10 percent by late 2014, the firm said.
"We still think the mini-notebook has a place in the mobile PC market, but not as a substitute for a standard mobile PC," Vasquez said.
The 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, Vasquez said. The emergence of tablet PCs like Apple Inc.'s iPad is a growing threat to the market niche carved out by mini-notebooks, he said.
"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," said George Shiffler, a research director at Gartner. "However, we anticipate lower-priced iPad imitations will begin to take larger bites out of mini-notebook units as they are released next year."