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Gartner says world will buy 10.5m tablets in 2010

Dons rose colored glasses for PC forecast

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The global PC business is apparently bouncier than the analysts at Gartner had been projecting only a few months ago, and now, they're predicting that PC shipments will rise by 19.7 per cent in 2010 to 366.1 million machines.

With price competition and a trend toward cheaper machines, however, it is going to get harder for PC makers to turn a buck, with revenues across all PC types and sold in all geographies (and reckoned in US dollars) to rise by only 12.2 per cent to $245bn.

This is quite a bit rosier than Gartner's forecast from December looking ahead to 2010, when it said shipments would grow by 13.3 per cent and shipments by a mere 1.9 percent. Even that more modest growth would have been better than 2009's levels, when 305.8 million PCs were shipped. That was only 4.9 per cent better than 2008's shipments, and it matched the $243bn in sales those PCs represented in 2008.

The continuing shift from desktop to mobile PCs is driving units, and Gartner says that mobile PCs will account for 90 per cent of the growth in the PC market over the next three years. Last year, mobile PCs had a 55 per cent slice of the PC shipment pie, and by 2012, Gartner forecasts that mobile PCs will account for nearly 70 per cent of units.

With Apple's iPad and other tablet computers on the horizon, Gartner is guesstimating that as many as 10.5 million traditional tablet PCs (basically, laptops with swivel screens) and next-generation tablets (like the iPad) could ship this year.

Mini-notebooks - what a lot of us still call netbooks - have been driving PC volumes during the economic downturn, and there expected to continue to be a factor driving mobile PC shipments (and bringing down average selling prices) in 2010. But ultraportables - what many call smartbooks, based not on x86 and x64 processor designs, but more and more on the ARM chips used in smartphones - are going to start eating into the netbook business. So will the new class of tablet machines, says Gartner. Desktop PC growth with be minimaland limited to emerging markets, according to the analysts.

Gartner's forecast calls for all geographic regions to experience PC shipment and revenue growth, saying that the normal seasonal cycles for PC will snap back into place. Consumer PC sales are expected to be robust over the next few years, and businesses are expected to come out of their shells and start spending on PCs, too. ®

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