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Portable PCs Overtake Desktops in 1Q 2009

Worldwide shipments of portable PCs surpassed desktop PCs in the first quarter of this year, marking the first time it has occurred, according to an IDC report announced on Thursday.

In addition, IDC's Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker report pointed to a "dramatic" growth in netbook PC shipments for the quarter that was ahead of expectations.

"We had projected that mini-notebook PCs, or netbooks, would crossover and surpass shipments of traditional desktops in the near future, but it happened sooner that we expected," said Kathy Naganine, spokesperson for IDC in a telephone interview on Thursday. "This can be attributed by both a strong decline in the average sales price for netbooks and the new, more powerful machines being produced in this space."

Netbooks have no real formal definition, but the general consensus is that they are smaller, less powerful notebook-like devices that feature Internet connectivity.

Total PC shipments declined by 6.8 percent in the first quarter of 2009, from 287.3 million to 278.2 million units. IDC defined PCs as "desktop, notebook, ultra portable, and mini notebook PC" machines.

However, the netbooks sector was ahead of expectations, with shipments of 5.7 million machines in that quarter. Netbook sales dampened traditional notebook sales, according to IDC's report. In addition, IDC predicted that netbook sales will lead to a decrease in the overall value of PC shipments.

"The growth of Mini Notebooks to 9.5% of total PC shipments (17.3% of Portables) in 2009 will help drive shipment value down by 17.7% even as volumes decline just 3.2%," IDC explained in a press release.

The 2009 first-quarter worldwide PC shipment results represented the worst performance in the market since the third quarter of 2001, according to IDC.

Loren Loverde, director of IDC's Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker, noted in the report that mature regions such as Europe and North America are adjusting to the market better than emerging areas such as Latin America and Central/Eastern Europe. He attributed this finding to more liquidity and better short-term financing in the mature regions.

The Asia/Pacific excluding Japan (APeJ) region performed slightly above IDC's forecast due to government investment and vouchers to stimulate spending by consumers. China led the list of countries buying PCs in the APeJ region.

IDC's forecast, which extends to 2013, projects a steady worldwide decline in desktop PC shipments through 2010, with portable PCs showing erratic growth.

In the short term, shipments of both desktop and portable PCs are expected to spike near the end of this year because of innovations such as Windows 7, combined with holiday spending, according to IDC. Microsoft announced that it will begin shipping Windows 7 on Oct. 22. However, a Microsoft official predicted Windows 7 would deliver just a "modest" bump in PC sales due to generally poor economic conditions worldwide.

Industry supply-chain checks suggest that the worst is over for PC sales, according to IDC's Vice President Bob O'Donnell, in a released statement.

About the Author

Herb Torrens is an award-winning freelance writer based in Southern California. He managed the MCSP program for a leading computer telephony integrator for more than five years and has worked with numerous solution providers including HP/Compaq, Nortel, and Microsoft in all forms of media.

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