Netbooks Helped Spur PC Shipments in Q3, Says IDC

Good news, says IDC. After three quarters of slumping, worldwide PC shipments grew in the third quarter. And while desktops sales will remain flat in 2010, portable PCs will continue growing both internationally and in the United States.

Back-to-school sales helped the worldwide PC market achieve positive growth in the third quarter of 2009, according to a Dec. 17 report from IDC. Consumer mobile devices, which grew 33.5 percent from a year earlier, helped to propel the overall market, which, after three consecutive quarters of decline, increased by 2.4 percent.

Sales of mini notebooks, or netbooks, were 37 percent higher than in the second quarter of 2009, boosting their share of the consumer portables category to 28 percent, from 14 percent a year earlier. Consumer desktop sales, on the other hand, fell from 2008's 144.9 million units to a projected 126.2 million total units for 2009. However, says IDC, their decline slowed down some in 2009, which may hint at an increase in IT spending in coming quarters.

"An aging installed base of PCs to replace, along with government aid and declining average selling prices are key ingredients for a recipe for resurgence of PC shipments into the commercial market segment," said Richard Shim, an analyst with IDC, in a statement. "The combination of a recovering commercial market and a healthy consumer market will lead to double digit shipment growth through 2013."

In 2010, growth is also expected from emerging markets, which currently account for half of the total market. Desktop shipments are expected to be flat, portable PC sales are expected to rise by 18.1 percent and netbook sales are projected to keep increasing, though at a slower rate, as ultra-thin notebooks take back some of the category.

"Beyond stabilizing their business, PC vendors are trying to position themselves for gains as the market recovers," said IDC analyst Jay Chou, in the statement. "We're seeing aggressive promotions and expect innovations leveraging new technologies, including ultra-thin designs, touchscreens and LED panels. The technology changes and efforts to stand out in an increasingly commoditized market will lead to further product and customer segmentation and add to the advantage of market leaders in covering the breadth of products, technologies, and market segments."

While worldwide desktop PC sales are expected to remain flat into 2010, IDC expects them to continue to dip slightly in the United States. Portable PC sales, however, are expected to rise in all regions, with U.S. sales projected at 45 million units in 2010 and on to 61.9 million units in 2013. Worldwide, portable PC sales are expected to reach 150.2 million units in 2010, before hitting 250.6 million in 2013.

Worldwide, IDC projects overall PC sales to finish 2009 at 291.4 million units, before increasing to 321.4 million units in 2010 and 44.4 million units in 2013.

"Once again, the PC market shows its resiliency," said Loren Loverde, a program director with IDC, in the statement. "The speed of market stabilization and growth in key segments reflect the essential role of personal computing today. Technology evolution and falling prices remain a compelling combination. As commercial spending recovers in 2010, we expect to see robust growth over the next several years."

Research firm Gartner is also predicting a rosier 2010 for mobile handsets. While in 2009 sales were flat, the firm is anticipating a 9 percent increase over current numbers. More than hardware, software, services and content are expected to drive growth - as well as vendors to get more creative.