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Gartner Predicts Significant Drop in PC Sales

A new research note from analyst firm Garner predicts that the PC industry will “suffer its sharpest unit decline in history” in 2009. Gartner predicts a nearly 12% reduction in sales from 2009, but noted that many PC makers are and their suppliers are equipped to adapt to the changing reality of the market.

“The PC industry is facing extraordinary conditions as the global economy continues to weaken, users stretch PC lifetimes and PC suppliers grow increasingly cautious,” said George Shiffler, research director at Gartner. Sales in both emerging and mature markets will both decline at steep rates,10.4 percent and 13 percent respectively, according to the report.

The Gartner report is not so much a “Debbie Downer: as it is a reflection of today’s economic reality. Consumers and businesses are just spending less. And it’s not surprising to see them stretch out the useful life of the computers they already own.

Worldwide mobile PC shipments are expected to reach 155.6 million units, a 9 percent increase from 2008. Desktop PC shipments are forecast to total 101.4 million units, a 31.9 percent decline from 2008. Mobile PC growth will be substantially boosted by continued growth in mini-notebook shipments; excluding mini-notebooks, other mobile PC shipments will grow just 2.7 percent in 2009.

Desktop PC sales are forecast for a marked 31.9% decline; whereas, mobile PC sales are expected to increase nearly 10% from 2008. The report credits the burgeoning popularity of netbooks–low cost mobile PCs–for the growth. Netbooks are cushioning sales, but remain too few to offset the collapse of the desktop PC market, the report noted.

Regardless, PC makers have learned their lessons from 2001, when the market contracted just 3.2%, Gartner says. “Razor thin margins and the lessons learned in 2001 have schooled PC vendors and channels in the necessity to invest in their supply chains. These investments have given them much better visibility of demand, even though products are largely being built in Asia by third parties and therefore have long lead times.”

The PC market is far from collapsing, and the availability of Windows 7 later this year (unless it’s January) will likely boost sales. Back-to-school and holiday sales likely won’t be as robust as they would during normal economic times, but there are still a lot of PCs that will be sold this year, and there will not be a dust bowl in Silicon Valley.