Updated from 12:36 p.m. EDT Perhaps the PC market still has some life in it after all.
But the pulse is coming from new corners of the globe, while mature markets like Western Europe and the U.S. continue to show less demand for personal computers.
According to industry research firm IDC, PC sales in the first quarter were higher than expected, thanks to international demand.
In a report released Tuesday, IDC said worldwide PC shipments grew 12.6% during the first three months of the year, compared with projections made in March of 11.8% growth. While the growth rate is less than the 16% increase in sales during all of 2005, the PC market is exceeding expectations, and the outlook for 2006 has improved, according to IDC.
"Consumers are becoming an increasingly strong force in both regional and worldwide PC shipments," said IDC VP of clients and displays Bob O'Donnell in a statement. "The movement towards consumer notebooks, in particular, will help maintain the double digit-growth rates that we are predicting for the worldwide PC market through 2008."
IDC raised its full-year estimates for 2006 to 10.8% growth from 10.5% growth. In 2007, IDC now expects PC sales to increase 11.7%, up nearly one percentage point from its prior estimate.
The firm trimmed its growth estimates for 2009 and 2010 slightly but said that total PC shipments through 2010 will nonetheless come in higher than expected. Total PC shipments in 2010 will reach 334 million units, up from the 208 million units shipped last year.
While PC sales in the U.S. and Western Europe fell 1% more than expected during the first quarter, the decline was offset by strong sales in Japan, the Asia/Pacific region and the so-called rest-of-world region. Sales in each of those regions surpassed IDC's March projections by several points.
Loren Loverde, the director of IDC's worldwide quarterly PC tracker, said that slower growth in mature markets, the delayed release of
Vista operating system and rising inventory increase the risk of slower growth.
"Nevertheless, we expect these factors will shift volume from 2006 to 2007 rather than reduce overall consumption," said Loverde. And she noted that strong demand in emerging markets, combined with falling prices and aggressive competition between component vendors and PC vendors will continue to result in solid growth.