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Businesses hold off on mobile PC purchases

Economic worries are putting laptop upgrades on the backburner in Britain, according to Gartner, as mobile PC shipments overall show a rise

British businesses are still reluctant to buy new laptops for their employees amid worries about the economy, according to analyst company Gartner.

First-quarter shipments of mobile PCs in the UK are down 15 percent year-on-year, Gartner said on Tuesday. The figures, which cover laptops, mini-notebooks and other types of mobile PC, mark the fifth consecutive quarter of decline for the sector. The first-quarter fall is all the worse when bearing in mind the economic woes of the first quarter of 2009, the company added.

"They [businesses] are still unsure about the economic climate and are trying to hold back budgets as long as they can," Gartner principal analyst Ranjit Atwal told ZDNet UK.

However, Gartner expects to see a turnaround in businesses' purchasing habits for laptops in the second quarter. That is when budgets will be "realigned and reallocated for the new financial year", Atwal said. "They will include budgets for the upgrade of hardware. The cost of extending the lifecycle [of mobile PCs] beyond a reasonable level is excessive."

Atwal added that Windows 7 remains on roadmaps in the enterprise, and he suggested that uptake of the operating system might bolster sales of mobile computers among those customers.

The business figures contrast heavily with those for the consumer market, according to Gartner. In the UK, consumer and business shipments overall rose 16 percent year-on-year.

Worldwide, shipments of mobile PCs overall grew 43.4 percent in the first quarter, according to a Gartner report released on Tuesday. The rise, the highest for eight years, is in part due to a 71 percent jump in shipments of mini-notebooks, the analyst firm said. Smartphones and media tablets, like the iPad, are not included in Gartner's mobile PC figures.

It also found that the worldwide average price of a mobile PC fell in the quarter, down 15.7 per cent year-on-year to $732 (£511). However, that was partly due to weak corporate demand, which increased the weighting towards cheaper consumer PCs, Gartner said.

HP achieved the highest mobile PC shipments in the period, followed by Acer, Dell, Toshiba and Asus.