PC sales are set to slow this year, Gartner has warned, reaching only 10.7 per cent in 2006 compared with 15.5 per cent in the previous year.
Despite strong growth in the mobile PC sector, desktop PC replacement activity has peaked, contributing to the slowdown. However, this still means an impressive 234.5m units will be shipped throughout 2006.
Worldwide, desktop PC shipments are expected to grow by 1.9 per cent during the year, compared with a growth rate of 31.4 per cent for mobile PC shipments.
There will also be a marked contrast between growth in mature and emerging markets. Desktop PC shipments to mature markets are expected to fall by 8.6 per cent, while shipments to emerging markets are set to rise by 19.5 per cent. In the mobile PC sector, shipments to mature markets are predicted to grow 22.1 per cent and shipments to emerging markets are to jump by a notable 38.7 per cent.
"We expect a steady decline in desk-based replacement activity over the next year," principal analyst for Gartner's client platforms research Mikako Kitagawa said. "The impact will be especially dramatic in mature markets where new desk-based penetration is also slowing and mobile-for-desk-based substitution is increasing."
This represents somewhat of a turnaround for the industry, with desktop PC sales traditionally forming the bulk of the PC sellers' business in the US and Western Europe.
The Gartner research corresponds with a January report from research firm IDC, which indicated that it was laptops that were driving sales in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region during 2005.
"Vendors are likely to see a fundamental shift in the market as they come to grips with the steep decline in mature-market desk-based growth and are forced to seek growth in other market segments," Gartner's Client Platforms research director George Shiffler said.
Other factors could contribute to the market slowdown this year, including uncertainty in the PC sector. Microsoft has so far failed to announce a release date for its new Vista operating system, while Intel is currently in the process of introducing new products in an attempt to fend off competition from rival chipmakers such as AMD.
All these elements combined are likely to make consumers very cautious when it comes to buying new PCs, Gartner believes.
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