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IDC ups '04 PC sales forecast

Businesses buying more as consumer growth slows

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World+dog will buy 176.5m PCs this year, market watcher IDC said yesterday, in the process raising its forecast for this year's annual growth figure from 13.5 per cent to 14.2 per cent.

The reason? Businesses are buying more computers again, not only matching the slowdown in consumer PC acquisition but exceeding it. According to IDC, commercial PC buyers will acquire 113.3m PC in 2004, compared to the 63.2m PCs consumers will buy. Those totals represent 15.5 and 11.8 per cent unit growth over 2003's figures.

Last year saw PCs shipments rise 11.9 per cent to 154.6m units. That total is split 56.5m to 98.1, consumer to commercial, each growing 13.3 and 11 per cent, respectively, over 2002's numbers.

While consumer growth is slowing, commercial growth is accelerating. However, both constituencies will still buy more machines this year than they did in 2003.

That trend will continue through 2005, IDC forecasts. Total shipments will grow 10.5 per cent over 2004's 176.5m unit estimate to 195m units. But while consumer growth will decline further, to 8.7 per cent, so too will commercial growth, falling to 11.5 per cent, the researcher estimates.

That's not necessarily a cause for concern - the higher growth simply reflects increased acquisition activity over depressed years. In essence, said IDC, the coming slowdown in growth is a sign of the market settling down after the bust and then the boom.

The divergence between the booming commercial sector and the slowing consumer arena will be seen most strongly in the US, IDC said, less so in Western Europe as the strong euro drives recovery across the board. But it cautioned: "growth will begin to slow as portables growth cools and year-on-year comparisons become more difficult".

In Japan, "slow growth is expected to continue while business spending remains conservative and competition from other products limits consumer demand". ®

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