PC market outlook improves, but decline still expected for 2009

Gartner, IDC and iSuppli each reported PC market declines last week

Gartner, IDC and iSuppli each reported PC market declines last week, with iSuppli stating that the segment will suffer its first decline since the dotcom bubble burst and Gartner and IDC stating that recent declines, while still significant, are less harsh than previously anticipated, writes Suzanne Deffree, managing editor, News, at Electronic News.

According to iSuppli, the global PC market will suffer a 4% contraction in unit shipments in 2009, forced by a combination of falling IT spending and an anticipated 18.1% decline in sales of desktops. PC shipments are expected to drop to 287.3 million units in 2009, down from 299.2 million in 2008. ISuppli previously forecasted 0.7% growth in PC shipments for the year.

"An annual decline in unit shipments is highly unusual in the PC market," said Matthew Wilkins, iSuppli's principal analyst for compute platforms, in a statement.

"Even in weak years, PC unit shipments typically rise by single-digit percentages. The last decline - in 2001 - was a 5.1% decrease in unit shipments due to the extraordinary impact of the dotcom bust, which caused inflated IT spending levels from the previous years to collapse."

ISuppli reported optimism for notebook PC shipments in 2009, stating that it expects shipments to rise by 11.7% to reach 155.97 million units, up from 139.6 million in 2008. Notebook PC shipments will exceed those of desktops on an annual basis for the first time ever in 2009, the company said.

"Mobility is winning out in the PC market," Wilkins said. "Businesses and consumers continue to embrace notebook PCs because of the benefits of mobility and the near-equal performance and feature set. This is cutting into desktop PC shipments."

Q2 and the second half

Looking specifically to the now closed June quarter, both Gartner and IDC reported Q2 declines but noted that the declines were not as steep as had been expected.

Gartner reported that worldwide PC shipments totalled 68.1 million units in Q2, a 5% year-over-year decline. That performance was significantly better than the 9.8% shipment decline Gartner had forecast for the quarter in June.

"In the first quarter of 2009, inventory restocking played a major role in shipment growth, but this was less of a factor in the second quarter," said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner, in a statement.

"Though the market was still in decline, the better than expected results can be interpreted as a small sign of a PC market recovery in terms of shipment volumes in some regions. PC shipments in Asia/Pacific and the US were better than our expectation, while shipments in the Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) region indicated ongoing weakness."

IDC also noted that Q2 global PC shipments came in ahead of expectations, "lessening fears over the extent of the PC market slump". According to IDC, worldwide PC shipments were down 3.1% from Q2 2008, compared with IDC's expectations for a decline of 6.3%. All regions either met or surpassed expectations, and portable PCs continued to be the primary driver of volume and growth, IDC reported.

"These results are a very positive indicator for the second half of the year," said Loren Loverde, program director for IDC's Tracker Program, in a statement.

"We are seeing continued demand from consumers and limited impact from supply chain factors such as inventory balancing. New product launches in the second half of the year, combined with seasonal growth and greater economic confidence resulting from factors such as government stimulus, a more liquid housing market, relatively stable stock market and interest rates, and progress in the auto and financial industries, should support the expected return to growth by year-end."

Still, IDC said that while the market outperformed expectations for a second consecutive quarter in Q2, the lack of commercial activity remains a drag on growth. The commercial segment remains more conservative with spending, focusing on other priorities and preserving cash. As a result, the segment has not been as motivated by falling prices and new portable designs as the consumer segment, IDC said.

"The market continues to rely on consumer purchases, with a substantial weakness in the commercial space," Bob O'Donnell, IDC's vice-president of clients and displays, said in the company's statement. "We expect to see more of the same as we enter the busy shopping season of the second half of the year. In the longer term, an expected recovery in the commercial segment should boost growth in 2011."

Looking to the second half, iSuppli said shipments are expected to rise sequentially by 11% in Q3 and 8.9% in Q4.

"Although our expectation is for shipments to rise vigorously in the third quarter on a sequential basis, conditions remain weak compared with 2008," Wilkins said.

On a year-over-year basis, Q3 shipments will be down 6.5%, iSuppli estimated. However, Q4 shipments are expected to rise by 3.6% compared to the same quarter last year, the company said, noting that the trend will continue in 2010, with shipments rising on a year-over-year basis during every quarter of the year. For all of 2010, iSuppli estimated global PC shipments will rise by 4.7% from 2009.

Read more on PC hardware