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PC Unit Shipments to Grow Only 3.8 Percent in 2011

Worldwide shipments of PCs will grow less than 4 percent in 2011 because of sluggish economies in the U.S. and Europe, according to researcher Gartner, Inc.

Gartner reported that PC shipments are on pace to grow 3.8 percent to 352 billion units in 2011. However, the industry will bounce back in 2012 when shipments will increase 10.9 percent to 404 million units.

The forecasts for PC unit growth for 2011 and 2012 have been downgraded from previous projections. Gartner had originally forecast 9.3 percent growth for PC shipments in 2011 and 12.8 percent growth in 2012.

The forecast has been reduced largely because of sluggish PC sales in Western Europe and the United States due to overall weak economic conditions.

"Western Europe is not only struggling through excess PC inventory, but economic upheaval as well," said Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner. He added that U.S. consumer PC shipments were much weaker than expected in the second quarter and it appears that back-to-school PC sales are disappointing.

“An increasing pessimistic economic outlook is causing both consumer and business sentiment to deteriorate,” said Atwal. “We're expecting consumer spending to tighten in response. Business spending will also tighten, but less than the consumer space."

While PCs remain important to consumers and businesses, purchases can be easily delayed.

Shipments of media tablets, such as Apple’s iPad, have been strong, but they are not included in the PC forecast. "Media tablets have dramatically changed the dynamic of the PC market," said George Shiffler, research director at Gartner. He said HP's decision to rethink its PC strategy highlights the pressure that PC OEMs are under “to adapt to the new dynamic or abandon the market."