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PC shipment forecasts revised downward

PC shipments in the second quarter of 2011 trailed expectations, which has prompted market research firm International Data Corp. to revise its full-year forecast downward slightly to 4.2 percent.

The update to its Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker reports that shipments grew by 2.7 percent in the quarter, off from the 2.9 percent forcast. The research firm cites a number of factors, including sluggish sales in mature markets, cannibalization from devices including media tablets and smartphones, and an overall environment of economic malaise, especially among small and midsize businesses (SMBs).

Notes IDC senior research analyst Jay Chou:

“With the excitement of mini notebooks largely past, the PC industry has struggled to come up with compelling features to keep buyer interest, and has subsequently suffered some budget-competition from smartphones as well as media tablets, which sold more than 107 million and 13.5 million units, respectively, in the second quarter of 2011. The proposed spin-off of HP’s PC business has also contributed to uncertainty in the market as the channel and corporate users re-evaluate their next steps.”

That’s the bad news. The good news, in my opinion, is that the United States is holding its own relative to other mature markets. Sure, sales dropped by almost 5 percent in the second quarter, compared with the previous year. But in Western Europe, they fell by more than 20 percent.

IDC also believes the long-term trends are positive. Here is the growth in percentage shipments that it anticipates for mature markets over the next several years:

2012 – 5.1 percent
2013 – 5.6 percent
2014 – 6.5 percent
2015 – 5.9 percent

Mature markets include the United States, Western Europe, Japan and Canada.

I believe that IT solution providers need to watch these numbers in context of how other client devices are doing — including media tablets and smartphones, both of which continue to post extraordinary growth. Consider that IDC believes vendors will ship a total of 472 million smartphones in 2011, which is a 55 percent growth rate. Media tablets are posting an even faster growth rate, although that growth is obviously coming off a much smaller base. IDC just reported that worldwide shipments for the second quarter were 13.6 million units, up about 304 percent year over year.

Long term, there will be very different sorts of client devices relying on your IT services firm’s skills. Will your team be up to that challenge? It won’t, if it keeps focusing on desktops and notebooks as the only client devices worth worrying about.

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So, they are basing their facts on the last quarter - a quarter where computer sales tend not to be that good to start off with.