The new form factors that will reshape the PC forever

9 Mar 2010

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New trends from ultra-thin portable PCs to next-generation tablet devices like the iPad will change the shape of the personal computer as we know it in 2010, IDC says, as consumers are prepared to get more experimental.

IDC said that many of the trends that influenced the worldwide PC market in 2009 will continue to resonate in 2010, but their impact will change as new market forces come into play.

The analyst firm also predicted that WiMax-embedded notebooks will surpass 3G-embedded notebooks.

Tough economy means new opportunities

The lower prices brought on by last year’s challenging economy will create new opportunities for emerging sub form factors, such as ultrathin portables and all-in-one desktops.

"We’re expecting consumer and commercial PC buyers alike to be more experimental with new types of PCs, especially because of their lower price points,” said Bob O’Donnell, vice-president, Clients and Displays.

“Hardware vendors and software developers should seize the opportunity to promote differentiation by rewriting the computing experience to match the new variety of PC sub form factors arriving in the market,” O’Donnell said.

The top predictions are:

Ultrathins will be less than 5pc of total portable PC shipments. The focus on ultrathin PCs will continue to grow in 2010, but the value equation for many consumers is still not compelling enough to drive significant growth.

Mini notebook or netbook shipment growth will drastically slow and plateau. Lack of differentiation and declining prices for other portable PCs will translate into shipment growth rates in the low double-digit range, just under the portable PC average for the remainder of the forecast period.

Lower pricing to slow down

Average selling price (ASP) declines will slow dramatically. Stronger market demand from both the commercial and consumer markets should translate into solid shipment growth this year, making it less likely that the market will aggressively lower ASPs to spur growth.

Shipments of portable PCs with WiMAX embedded will surpass shipments of portable PCs with 3G cellular embedded in 2010. While activation rates for 3G-enabled notebooks may be higher than WiMAX-enabled notebooks, the foundation is being laid for future WiMAX adoption.

Share of all-in-one desktops will double. Continued interest from consumers, combined with new momentum in the commercial sector, will drive strong shipment growth and help all-in-one desktops to capture nearly 10pc of the worldwide desktop market in 2010.

Popularity of portable PCs

Portable PCs will account for more than 60pc of all PC shipments. The drivers that have made portable PCs so popular have not changed. Although portable PC shipments will grow well past the 50pc mark, value-conscious desktop adoption in emerging markets will slow this growth slightly.

Some 10pc of new enterprise desktop client deployments will be virtual. The expected commercial market rebound will help in the process of experimenting with new computing models, enabling virtualisation of the desktop client to gain some traction.

Touch-enabled portable and desktop PCs will gain little traction. Without compelling touch-specific software, consumers aren’t likely to buy touch-enabled PCs in large quantities. In turn, application developers will hold back until a larger installed base is available.

Apple’s launch of the iPad will not spur increased sales of Windows-based tablet PCs. Although Apple’s iPad could find success, its shipments won’t count in IDC’s Tablet PC numbers since it doesn’t run a full operating system. Forthcoming tablet products from traditional PC makers such as HP and Lenovo are likely to garner interest, but not high shipment figures.

DVD will remain the dominant optical drive type in PCs. Quite simply, DVD is “good enough” from both a price and picture quality standpoint to withstand the challenge from Blu-Ray for dominance in desktop and portable PC drives.

By John Kennedy

Photo: The iPad

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com