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IT Trends | Forecast

Windows 8 and Ultrabooks Could Help Revive Weak PC Market

Worldwide PC shipments will increase by only 4.4 percent to a total of 368 million units in 2012, according to a new forecast released by market research firm Gartner. But greater growth should be seen in the PC market in 2013 with shipments exceeding 400 million units in that year.

Gartner cited the economy and supply issues as factors contributing to the recent weakness in the PC market. Last year's floods in Thailand, a country that produces one-third of the world's hard drives, caused a significant supply problem.

The increased popularity of tablets and smartphones is also affecting the PC market. "The use of applications such as e-mail, social networking, and Internet access, that were traditionally the domain of the PC, are now being used across media tablets and smartphones, making these devices in some cases more valued and attractive propositions," said Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner, in a prepared statement.

Cloud-based services are another factor. "We expect the shift to the personal cloud will also accelerate as consumers increasingly adopt cloud-based services as part of their digital ecosystem," said Atwal. "The evolution of the personal cloud will challenge vendors across all mobile devices markets and add to the hurdles for PC vendors to overcome to revive the PCs and differentiate them from tablets." Although tablets are tools primarily for content consumption, and PCs are better suited to content creation, Atwal thinks that difference may not be enough to counteract the growth in the media tablet market.

The impending release of Windows 8 and increased interest in ultrabooks could help revive the market, Gartner reported, though it is uncertain at this point how much of an affect Windows 8 will have on the market. Atwal said Windows 8 needs to be compelling enough to get early adopters excited about PCs again.

Gartner predicted growing interest in ultrabooks in the second half of 2012. Ultrabooks are lightweight, high-performance laptops with solid-state drives and long battery life.

PCs have saturated the market and sales occur primarily when people need to replace their existing unit. According to Atwal, most PC growth will take place in emerging markets, both in the short and long term. "Our expectation is that 2012 and then 2013 onwards will be supported by growth in emerging markets as their share increases from just over 50 percent in 2011 to nearly 70 percent in 2016," said Atwal.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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