Worldwide personal computer shipments are projected to total 367.8 million units in 2010, a 19.2 % increase from 308.3 million units shipped in 2009, according to the latest preliminary forecast by the Gartner research group (

“The personal computer market revived in the first half of 2010, but the real test of its resilience is yet to come,” says Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner. “We have reduced our forecast for second-half 2010 personal computer growth to 15.3%, approximately 2 % below our previous forecast, in light of the uncertain economic outlook for the United States and Western Europe. There is no doubt that consumer, if not business, personal computer demand has slowed relative to expectations in mature markets. Recent dramatic shifts in the personal computer supply chain were in no small part a reaction to fears of a sharp slowdown in mature-market demand. However, suppliers’ risk-aversion is as much a factor in these shifts as any actual downshift in demand.”

Consumers buoyed the personal computer market in 2009 as businesses delayed their purchases. The slow pace of economic recovery and austerity measures in Europe have made personal computer suppliers very cautious in 2010, according to Gartner. However, consumer demand is likely to remain strong even if the economic recovery stalls because consumers now view the personal computer as a relative “necessity” rather than a “luxury” and will continue to spend on personal computers, even at the expense of other consumer electronic devices.

Gartner analysts said businesses will find it very difficult to delay personal computer replacements further. The age of the professional personal computer installed base is already at an all-time high.

“Businesses that delay replacing much longer risk alienating employees, burdening themselves with more service requests and support costs, and ultimately facing higher migration costs when they eventually migrate to Windows 7,” Atwal says. “The bottom line is that businesses need to refresh their personal computers sooner rather than later. Thus, the full bloom of the long-awaited professional personal computer refresh can’t be more than a few quarters ahead.”

Mini-notebooks’ impact on the personal computer market has peaked and is now waning, according to Raphael Vasquez, research analyst at Gartner. Mini-notebooks’ share of mobile personal computer shipments declined for the second consecutive quarter in the second quarter of 2010, falling under 18%. Mini-notebooks’ share of the mobile personal computer market peaked in late 2009, when they accounted for nearly 20% of total mobile computer shipments. Their share is expected to continue falling until it reaches around 10% by late 2014.

“We still think the mini-notebook has a place in the mobile personal computer market, but not as a substitute for a standard mobile computer,” Vasquez says. “Indeed, the recent decline in mini-notebooks’ share of the mobile computer market reflects a general realization among buyers that mini-notebooks are less-than-perfect substitutes for standard low-end laptops. Buyers who once would have bought a mini-notebook based solely on its low price now seem more inclined to buy a low-end standard notebook, especially since the prices of the two have converged. Mini-notebooks are slowly but surely carving out a market niche for themselves as companion devices. However, the emergence of media tablets is a growing threat to that niche.”

Gartner defines a tablet computer as having a touchscreen size of five inches or more, outfitted with a full-function operating system. A media tablet is defined as a device that has a screen size of five inches or larger and is outfitted with a restricted-function OS (such as iOS).

Gartner includes tablet computers in itscomputer market statistics and forecasts, but excludes media tablets from both. Nonetheless, media tablets will affect the personal computer market, especially mini-notebooks, and the forecast reflects this impact,” says George Shiffler, research director at Gartner.

“The iPad hasn’t had much of an impact on mini-notebook units so far, if only because it is generally priced higher than most mini-notebooks,” he says. “However, we anticipate lower-priced iPad imitations will begin to take larger bites out of mini-notebook units as they are released next year.”