Gartner Cuts Worldwide PC Sales Forecast

SAN FRANCISCO, March 25 (Reuters) – Market researcherGartner Inc on Tuesday cut its forecast for worldwidepersonal-computer sales growth, citing the weakening economy,and cautioned that growth could fall into the single digits.

The industry is expected to ship 10.9 percent morecomputers this year than in 2007, Gartner said, down from anearlier forecast of 11.6 percent. In 2007, shipments grew 13.4percent to 271.2 million units, U.S.-based Gartner estimated inJanuary.

"The consensus among economists is we have a recession,"Gartner research director George Shiffler said by phone. "It’snot a question of whether there is (a recession), but how deepit’s going to be and how long it’s going to last."

In addition to a U.S. recession, the possibility of a sharpslowdown in China’s economy following this year’s Olympic gamesin Beijing and higher oil prices could hurt PC sales, Gartnersaid.

The world’s top PC makers include Hewlett-Packard Co(HPQ.N: Quote, Profile, Research), Dell Inc (DELL.O: Quote, Profile, Research), Taiwan’s Acer Inc (2353.TW: Quote, Profile, Research) andChina’s Lenovo Group Ltd (0992.HK: Quote, Profile, Research).

Shiffler said U.S. businesses may delay desktop PCreplacements until next year as technology budgets tighten.Companies may decide to keep running older versions ofMicrosoft Corp’s (MSFT.O: Quote, Profile, Research) Windows operating system beforeupgrading to Windows Vista, which in most cases requires ahigher-performing PC to function fully, he said.

"If you have a bunch of stuff coming due for replacementthis year, you could extend life cycles into next year and saveyourself some out-of-pocket money," Shiffler said.

The last major desktop PC replacement cycle was from 2004to 2005, Gartner said. It expects another, "albeitsubstantially more modest" replacement cycle, from late 2008 toearly 2010.

Still, Gartner said the PC market "is fundamentally in goodshape," with strong sales of laptop computers being spurred byfalling prices and growing demand for computers in emergingmarkets.(Reporting by Philipp Gollner; Editing by Gary Hill)