PC market to stay strong in 2004, says Gartner

Growth of PC shipments will continue at double-digit rates in the first quarter of 2004 and hold that pace throughout the year,...

Growth of PC shipments will continue at double-digit rates in the first quarter of 2004 and hold that pace throughout the year, market research company Gartner predicted.

In the first quarter of 2004, PC suppliers will ship 44 million units, up 13.3% from the first quarter of 2003. Consumer notebooks continue to lead most of the growth as wireless technologies improve and prices fall, Gartner said.

The rest of the year will see an increase in the number of corporations upgrading their aging PC inventories.

This "corporate replacement cycle" has been eagerly awaited for about two years, but has been spread out over a longer period of time compared to the last major replacement cycle in 1999, the company said.

Corporate customers will be a strong part of the market in the second half of the year, especially in the US. Companies will continue to gradually move forward with PC purchases as the economy strengthens and businesses become more confident in the recovery.

PC suppliers will ship 187 million units in 2004, up 13.9% from 2003 shipments.

All four quarters in 2004 should show double-digit increases in PC shipment growth as compared with the previous year. In the fourth quarter of 2003, PC shipments increased 12% from the same period in 2002.

Due to the weakness of the US dollar over the past year, the Western European business market outperformed the US business market in 2003.

This trend will continue as long as the dollar remains weak, and growth among US business customers will lift the overall numbers, Gartner predicted.

The top two worldwide PC suppliers are scheduled to report earnings over the next week, and both Dell and Hewlett-Packard will also provide guidance on how they see the PC market shaping up for the rest of the year.

Dell expects to report revenue of $19.5bn for the fourth quarter of 2003.

Tom Krazit writes for IDG News Service

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