The PC market should expect no miracles this year, research firm IDC shared in a June 19 report. Pointing to global economic uncertainty and increasing competition from alternate devices such as tablets, the research firm is expecting only modest growth. Shipments by years end are forecast to near 383 million units.
While PC shipments during the first quarter were better than expected, IDC Senior Research Analyst Jay Chou explains that this was due to a quicker-than-expected recovery of the hard-disk drive (HDD) supply following devastating flooding last fall in Thailand, where the HDD market is concentrated. While those figures shouldnt be taken as an indicator of a bright year ahead, there are likely to be rosy spots, according to Chou.
Consumer sentiment could be revived with UltraBook or Ultrathin systems, provided the right price is reached, Chou wrote in the report. More price-cutting in the Android tablet landscape could free up some budget for PC purchases, but could also focus consumers on tablets rather than PCs.
Intel executives have said that more than 100 Ultrabooks have been designed around the companys new Ivy Bridge processors, and this spring the notebooks were introduced in waves. Many of the business notebooks, taking cues from consumer PCs, are likely to pique the interest of executives (though wider rollouts are another story). On June 11, Apple also refreshed its notebook lineup with the Intel chips.
In the United States, the upcoming presidential election is said to be stressing both consumers and businesses, which respectively are refraining from spending and hiring. IDC says its expecting this perfect storm to continue over the next two quarters before meaningful growth is resumed.
This fall, Microsoft is expected to introduce Windows 8, its long-anticipated and much-hyped platform reimagining, more than just refresh, though it has to specify a date. If the ensuing devices running Windows 8 catch users fancy, the platform could lead to a "stronger refresh cycle as the year ends," said IDC Research Director David Daoud.
Underscoring Microsofts need for users to be drawn to products running its software, the company decided to leave little to chance. In Los Angeles June 18, despite strong ties to a number of hardware makers that will release Windows 8 tablets later this year, Microsoft introduced the Microsoft Surface, a tablet designed to compete against the Apple iPadand not just by trying to be an iPad. Refreshingly, in a PC industry full of iPad clones, Microsoft managed to push the design a step further and paired the tablet with a cover that can act as a keyboard.
While the Surfaces success will be partly determined by its price pointwhich, like its release date, has yet to be announcedits possible that the tablet will do something to improve Microsofts brand image, which could help to nudge PC sales higher.
IDC expects worldwide PC growth to reach 413.6 million units in 2013, before climbing to nearly 491 million units in 2015 and 528.5 in 2016.
The firm notes that emerging markets, previous stalwarts of growth, are feeling headwinds from the Euro crisis. Still, IDC expects these markets to lead, shipping 224.5 million units this year to the 158.2 million units of mature markets, though the formers outcome will be more mixed.