Microsoft Windows 8, Ultrabooks to Save 2012 PC Market

The global PC market logged modest growth in 2011. It's counting on Microsoft Windows 8 and interest in Ultrabooks and other ultra-thin laptops to help 2012 finish stronger.

The global PC market is counting on the launch of Microsoft€™s Windows 8 and excitement over Ultrabooks and other super-thin laptops to make the second half of 2012 a bigger success than its start.

The worldwide PC market grew 1.8 percent in 2011, a modest uptick but a welcome one, given the consumer attention and dollars that have been refocused on tablets, according to March 20 report from IDC.

Even more positively, the global market for computers is hoping that 2011 represents a low point, with PC figures expected to climb through 2014, beginning with 5 percent growth in 2012, nearly doubling, at 9.5 percent, in 2013, and peaking at 9.6 percent growth in 2014 before dipping to 8.5 percent€”still a considerable margin over current figures€”in 2015.

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"Many consumers are holding off making PC purchases at the moment because tablet devices like Apple's iPad are proving to be a powerful distraction,€ Bob O'Donnell, an analyst with IDC, wrote in the report.

€œHowever, end-user surveys tell us that few people consider media tablets as replacements for their PCs, so later this year when there is a new Microsoft operating system, available in sleek new PC form factors, we believe consumer interest in PCs will begin to rebound,€ O€™Donnell added.

Despite some modest momentum, IDC analyst Jay Chou expects 2012 and 2013 to be particularly challenging for Microsoft and the PC community as a whole.

The Wintel platform€”tablets from Microsoft and Intel that rumors suggest may arrive in the third quarter€”"must evolve to accommodate user expectations of ubiquitous computing on a multitude of devices and physical settings," according to Chou€™s analysis.

"Windows 8 and Ultrabooks are a definitive step in the right direction to recapturing the relevance of the PC," Chou added, "but its promise of meshing a tablet experience in a PC body will likely entail a period of trial and error. Thus, the market will likely see modest growth in the near term."

Mature markets were a tough sell for PC makers in 2011, which fell by more than 9 percent in the desktop category and nearly 9 percent in the portable PC space, compared with 2010 figures.

While emerging markets will again carry the day€”in 2011, the portable PC market posted 19.3 percent growth and the desktop market 3.5 percent growth€”the success of the next few years will come with cooperation from the United States, Western Europe and other mature markets, where portable PC sales are expected to rise by nearly 5 percent in 2012 and 12 percent in 2013.

Emerging markets, meanwhile, are expected to decline slightly due, in part, to shortages of disk drives€”an effect of devastating flooding in Thailand, where a majority of disk drive makers were concentrated. An additional impact of this, says IDC, is that slowing exports "will likely affect PC spending as both consumers and SMBs [small and midsize businesses] in developing countries scale back."

Total global PC sales for 2011 were 353.3 million units. IDC expects that figure to rise to 371.1 million in 2012, 445.6 million in 2014 and 518.3 million in 2016.