PC industry weathers economic storm – netbooks save the day

11 Sep 2008

Growth in the global personal computer industry is set to remain in double-digits up to 2011, with low-cost netbook devices from Acer and Asus helping to drive sales.

Worldwide PC shipments are projected to grow by 15.7pc in 2008 to reach 311 million units. Growth will remain in double-digits through 2011, with growth above 9pc in 2012, boosting annual shipments to over 482 million in 2012.

Although still expanding quickly, Asia/Pacific excluding Japan saw volume increase by less than 14pc year on year after gains of near 20pc or better for most of the past few years. Rising energy costs, inflationary pressures, the Sichuan earthquake as well as the summer Olympics in China, all limited growth.

Offsetting slower growth in Asia, western Europe saw growth jump to 23pc from just 12pc in 2007, despite a slower economic outlook. Sparked by the wide appeal of low-cost portables such as the Asus Eee PC, western Europe consumer portables grew 60pc over the second quarter and are expected to boost growth for the remainder of 2008.

Other regions also raised their outlook for the next several years, primarily based on the continued strength of portable PC adoption.

“We continue to see a rapid transition to portable PCs around the world, even as economic pressures rise,” said Loren Loverde, director of IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker.

“The trend reflects the increasing importance of computing, not just in the home or office, but as an integrated part of our lives. Falling prices, more design choice and competition for PC makers to capture this market continue to drive a rapid transition.”

The success of low-cost notebooks will lead to further erosion of average prices, but will boost volume as more consumers purchase PCs for the first time or as additional systems. Ongoing wireless infrastructure upgrades and the growing role of portable PCs as part of a digital lifestyle, rather than just computing device, will also sustain growth in both consumer and commercial segments.

“The right way to gauge the success of consumer PCs is no longer the adoption rate of households with PCs, or even the number of PCs per household, but rather the number of machines per individual,” said Bob O’Donnell, vice-president, Clients and Displays at IDC.

“The increasing form factor diversity in notebooks as well as desktops is enabling people to justify multiple PC purchases. In the commercial space, companies continue to see the value of refreshing their PCs and are maintaining surprisingly healthy purchasing patterns,” O’Donnell said.

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years