Gartner Predicts Worst Year for PCs Since 2001

Gartner is forecasting the worst year for computer manufacturers since 2001, with sales falling 12% from 2008 levels. During the tech bust of 2001, PC unit shipments fell a record 3.2%. The declines are expected to hit both mature and emerging markets largely due to the global economic slowdown.

"The PC industry is facing extraordinary conditions as the global economy continues to weaken, users stretch PC lifetimes and PC buyers grow increasingly cautious," Gartner research director George Shiffler told Marketwatch. "The impact of reduced replacements will be especially acute in mature markets, where replacements are estimated to account for around 80% of shipments."

The overall shortfall is skewed towards desktop computers, which Gartner expects to fall some 32% to 101 million units, while laptop sales actually rise some 9% to 156 million units. Netbook sales could double, from 11.7 million units to 21 million units.

There has been much ado, concern, and speculation over whether Apple will or should enter the netbook market, with some analysts going so far as to stress out about the company's lack of a strategy not to cannibalize MacBook sales in pursuit of a Mac netbook. For its part, Apple has said it is not pursuing a netbook at all.

For the last several quarters, Apple has regularly and consistently outpaced its PC rivals. In the most recent quarter, the company saw Mac sales grow even as most of the rest of the industry contracted, representing market share growth for Apple.