IDC predicts annual PC sales climbing above 500m

The PC industry may be today's whipping boy for smartphone and tablet fanboys, but IDC is predicting that PC shipments will climb from 353.3 million last year -- almost a million a day -- to more than 500 million in 2016.

The PC industry may be today's whipping boy for smartphone and tablet fanboys, but IDC is predicting that PC shipments will climb from 353.3 million last year -- almost a million a day -- to more than 500 million in 2016. However, the bulk of the growth will come from "emerging markets" not "mature markets", and from portable PCs rather than desktops. In fact, IDC predicts that shipments of portable PCs in "emerging markets" will almost double from 110.0 million in 2011 to 214.7 million in 2016 -- see table below.

IDC sees Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system stimulating sales. In a statement, Bob O'Donnell, IDC's vice president of Clients and Displays, says:

"Many consumers are holding off making PC purchases at the moment because tablet devices like Apple's iPad are proving to be a powerful distraction. However, end user surveys tell us that few people consider media tablets as replacements for their PCs, so later this year when there is a new Microsoft operating system, available in sleek new PC form factors, we believe consumer interest in PCs will begin to rebound."

However, not everything is rosy even in "emerging markets", and IDC has reduced its 2012 forecast for China to 9 percent growth. IDC says: "Part of the adjustment amongst emerging markets comes from the shortage of disk drives, which greatly impacts white box PC manufacturers who play a prevalent role in these markets. Secondly, the prospect of slowing exports will also likely affect PC spending as both consumers and SMBs in developing countries scale back."

Disk drive production has been affected by natural disasters including floods in Thailand.

IDC predictions bar chart

In "mature markets", all the growth will come from sales of portable PCs. IDC predicts that shipments of desktop PCs in "mature markets" will shrink from 52.8 million last year to 48.8 million in 2016. Shipments of portable PCs, however, will grow from 99.4 million last year to 146.6 million in 2016.

I expect that this continuing shift will be good news for physiotherapists and chiropractors, who can expect to see an increase in customers due to the inferior ergonomics of portable computers.

It remains to be seen how well Windows 8 will sell. IDC senior research analyst Jay Chou says: "Windows 8 and Ultrabooks are a definitive step in the right direction to recapturing the relevance of the PC, but its promise of meshing a tablet experience in a PC body will likely entail a period of trial and error, thus the market will likely see modest growth in the near term."

@jackschofield

IDC predictions table