2012 a stinker for PC shipment growth

A report from International Data Corporation (IDC) in its quarterly worldwide PC tracker claims that the global PC market should grow a modest five percent throughout 2012, labelling it as likely to be a ‘challenging year’.

383 million PCs should ship in the market this year, according to IDC data. This is a small improvement on the “tepid” growth in 2011. PCs are fighting for their life against alternative devices, but more worryingly, global political uncertainty and a “still bumpy economic roadmap” are also major factors.

IDC points out that there is a threat of a relapse into recession in several markets which, as has been the trend since the global economic downturn, will knock public spending and business confidence.

Because of this, IDC has reduced its outlook for small to medium sized firms. It does, however, maintain some hope that Windows 8 will provide a much needed growth injection into the consumer market, which has been largely disinterested for some time.

That said, questions remain about the exact details for Windows 8: its functions, pricing and release date are all stirring consumer anxiety. As a result, 2012 might not be a bumper year for Microsoft.

The analyst house does expect a new Wintel model swelling growth in 2013 through to 2016, with the company predicting total PC shipments over the period to sail past 528 million units.

According to senior research analyst Jay Chou, the first quarter results were better than predicted. But this was mostly down to the HDD industry realigning its supply chain after the flooding in Thailand.

“PCs continued to face pressure from a weak economic environment and growing competition,” Chou said in a statement. “Consumer sentiment could be revived with Ultrabook or Ultrathin systems, provided the right price is reached. More price-cutting in the Android tablet landscape could free up some budget for PC purchases, but could also focus consumers on tablets rather than PCs. Ultimately, we expect modest PC growth this year as the industry works through the transition to Windows 8 and related devices.”

For the US PC market, most consumers and businesses that need a PC already have one, so the majority do not feel it necessary to upgrade or expand on their devices. Additionally, the presidential elections are adding more stress to consumer and business confidence, as both hold back on spending or hiring. According to David Daoud, research director in Personal Computing at IDC, Windows 8 should bring a new class of product to the plate which “could lead to a stronger refresh cycle” as 2012 closes.

Worldwide, IDC is keeping views “conservative” towards PC buying in mature markets. These are expected to return to growth at some point in 2012. Although the emerging market is offering the most optimism for PC vendors from 2011 up to 2016, as can be seen in the below table, the Eurozone crisis is having a domino effect. Central Europe, Middle East and Africa (CEMA) has had its outlook increased, while the APAC region excluding Japan and Latin America will slow, unable to achieve the same level of growth.