Worldwide PC shipments crashed almost 7 percent in the first quarter of 2009 ­ the largest drop since the third quarter of 2001, amid the notorious dotcom bust, according to the latest figures from research firm, IDC.

The result was actually about 1.4 percent better than the pundits had expected, says IDC ­ but commercial sector and key macroeconomics indicators remain weak. And the position was worsened by the dramatic growth of the netbook market (or, as IDC prefers to call these devices, “mini notebook PCs”).

Some 5.7 million netbooks/mini notebooks were shipped, well ahead of expectations. But that also contributed to a drop of 3.1 million in the number of traditional (and higher-priced) notebooks.

“The impact on shipment value was dramatic with mini notebook PCs contributing $2.2 billion in the first quarter of 2009 while the value of traditional notebook shipments declined by US$8.4 billion,” says IDC in its Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker report.

It tips netbook prices will rise with the appearance of more robust models, while shipment growth will slow following release of low-cost ultra-thin CULV laptops ­ but nonetheless “the growth of mini notebooks to 9.5 percent of total PC shipments (17.3 percent of portables) in 2009 will help drive shipment value down by 17.7 percent even as volumes decline just 3.2 percent”.

Hopefully the worst may be over, according to Bob O’Donnell, IDC’s vice president, Clients and Displays. “We are starting to be more optimistic about volume growth at the end of the year and especially into 2010,” he said. New products in coming months, including CULVs, low-cost Intel Atom-based all-in-ones and Windows 7 should restore “positive shipment growth” over the next 12 months.


Further ahead IDC sees more positive outcomes, with the market returning to positive growth of 7.4 percent in 2010 , hitting 13 percent in 2011, before sliding back to 10.8c in 2013. By that time portable PCs will command the market, with shipments of 291 million units, compared with 128 million desktops

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