SAN FRANCISCO—Market research firm International Data Corp. (IDC) Monday slashed its forecast for 2011 PC shipment growth to 4.2 percent from 7.1 percent, citing declining first quarter shipments, an increasingly conservative economic outlook and relative PC market saturation among consumers in developed countries.
IDC (Framingham, Mass.) said its analysts expect the PC market to rebound and grow faster in 2012. The firm said it expects the market to grow between 10 and 11 percent each year between 2012 and 2015.
In March, IDC rival Gartner Inc. lowered its forecast for 2011 PC shipment growth to 10.5 percent from an earlier projection of 15.9 percent. Intel Corp., the world's biggest chip maker and dominant microprocessor supplier, has said repeatedly it expects PC growth in the "low double digits" in 2011. In April, Intel President and CEO Paul Otellini chided market research firms for PC market forecasts that were "all over the map."
IDC said Monday that consumer PC purchases have been propping up PC growth over the past five years, thanks in part to a transition to low-cost systems like mini notebooks and netbooks. But the appeal of mini notebooks has waned due to a number of factors, including saturation following a boom cycle in 2008 and 2009 and relative competition from mainstream notebooks and media tablets, IDC said.
"Consumers are recognizing the value of owning and using multiple intelligent devices and because they already own PCs, they're now adding smartphones, media tablets, and eReaders to their device collections," said Bob O'Donnell, IDC's vice president of clients and displays."And this has shifted the technology share of wallet onto other connected devices."
Market research firms have differed on the impact of media tablets—which are projected to grow strongly over the next few years—on the PC market. Analysts at IC Insights Inc., for example, consider media tablets to be part of the PC market and expect them to help the PC market grow 13 percent in 2011. But other firms, including iSuppli Corp., categorize media tablets separately and say they contributed to a decline in first quarter PC sales.
IDC said consumers are also increasingly affected by prolonged economic sluggishness, including high unemployment and pricing prices. The potential boost to the PC market from advancements like thinner designs, longer battery life, instant on capability won't happen until 2012 and will have to address price-sensitive buyers in order to drive higher levels of growth. The appeal of these future enhancements could be seen as another motive for consumers to delay the purchase of a new PC until they are available, according to IDC.
First quarter 2011 PC shipments were down 1.1 percent from the prior year, with a decline of 4.4 percent in consumer shipments that was only partially offset by 3 percent growth in commercial segments, according to IDC. The decline in consumer shipments was particularly acute in mature regions, with double-digit declines in Western Europe, the U.S. and Canada, according to IDC.
Relatively strong growth in the second quarter of 2010 is likely to keep second quarter 2011 growth low, IDC said. Trends in consumer growth, along with only modest growth in the commercial sector, combined with a cautious outlook from PC makers and disruptions associated with the March 11 earthquake in Japan and Middle East unrest will keep overall growth in single digits the rest of 2011, according to IDC.