Worldwide PC shipments are expected to increase almost 11 percent in 2008, but concerns about the sluggish U.S. economy could push that number down into the single digits by year's end, according to the latest research from Gartner.
Even with the U.S. economy slowing down in 2008, Gartner analysts believe that shipments of notebooks and a strong appetite for PCs in emerging markets, such as China and India, could offset losses in more mature markets.
In 2008, Gartner is predicting that PC shipments will increase 10.9 percent for a total of 293 million units compared to the 264 million notebooks and desktops that vendors shipped last year, according to the March 25 report.
The rapid growth of laptops has managed to push down prices, while improvements in technology, from the CPU to increased memory and hard disk drive capacity, have made notebooks an attractive replacement for desktops. Laptop shipments could help keep the PC space growing in 2008, but other factors could also sway the market.
"Mobile PCs continue to exhibit strong momentum, emerging-market growth remains robust and desk-based PC replacement activity is stirring," George Shiffler, a research director at Gartner, wrote in the report. "However, a deepening U.S. recession, the rising possibility of a sharp slowdown in China's economy following the Beijing Olympics and the elevated price of oil mean global PC shipments face increasing economic headwinds."
Emerging markets will also play an important role in 2008. In the fourth quarter of 2007, shipments to these markets increased 22 percent, which accounted for 60 percent of worldwide PC growth.
Gartner also found that the PC market is benefiting from a refresh cycle that could help drive shipments in 2008. The last major desktop refresh cycle ended in 2005, and Gartner expects that consumers and businesses will continue to replace desktops between this year and 2010. In addition, users are expected to continue replacing older laptops through 2009.
In addition to the United States, Gartner is also keeping an eye on the Chinese economy. A slowdown in both of those countries could end the refresh cycle and sap whatever gains increase laptop sales might have on the market.