IDC ups PC forecast

But business spending still lags

IDC has raised its forecasts for PC industry growth this year and next, but said the volatile economy and corporate disenchantment with Microsoft's licensing strategy are inhibiting a bounce back in the commercial sector, writes Joe Fay.

The research firm said it expects worldwide PC shipments to grow just over 1.6% this year, hitting 136.2m units. Growth will shoot up to 8.3% next year, and hit 11% next year. In September, the company said it expected growth of 1.1% this year, and 8.4% next year. In June its forecast was for 4.7% growth this year, and 11.1% in 2003.

Roger Kay, director of client computing at IDC, said the third quarter had been pretty strong for the PC industry, particularly in the consumer sector. So far, the consumer sector was showing continued strength in the fourth quarter. The public sector was also performing well, and SME was "stumping along."

"The only sector that's really under-performing is enterprise," said Kay. Enterprises are reluctant to spend given the unsteady economic environment, which is further darkened by the prospect of war in the Middle East.

PC vendors have been pinning their hopes on businesses beginning large scale upgrades of the PC fleets they installed ahead of the millennium switch over. Kay said that the differential between those fleets and the state of the art would eventually prompt businesses to upgrade next year.

However, a further brake on corporates' spending was their unhappiness with Microsoft' current stance on licensing and support. Recent changes to the company's corporate licensing policies have not gone down well with businesses, who feel they are being gouged by the software giant.

Software and hardware upgrades are inextricably linked, however. And in a corporate display of passive aggression, said Kay "Businesses are not buying to express their discontent."

PC vendors were aware of this said Kay, and were "In there arguing on behalf of their customers." But said Kay, there was a question market over who could apply pressure to who.

While Microsoft had conceded on some points, he said, "[The company] has to meet expectations that require pretty aggressive growth."

Nevertheless, said Kay, IDC expects business spending to pickup in the first half of next year. "We've got them leading in the second half."

The US consumer market will hit 16.6 million units this year, with commercial units hitting 30.9 million. Worldwide consumer units will hit 48 million and commercial will hit 88.1 million. US consumer shipments will grow 6.5% this year, 7.8% next year and 6.5% in 2004. US commercial shipments will grow a more pallid 1.2% this year, 6.7% next year and 11.7% in 2004. Worldwide consumer shipments will be 2% this year, 7.8% in 2003 and 9% in 2004. Worldwide commercial shipments will grow 1.4% this year, 8.6% next year and 12.1% next year.

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