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Report: PC Sales To Improve in 2013 Thanks to Windows 8

Strong user adoption of Windows 8 and steady sales of "ultrabooks" should help the PC market next year, according to market research firm Gartner.

Worldwide PC shipments will rise by only 4.4 percent in 2012, totaling 368 million units, according to Gartner's recent figures. Gartner cited the economy and supply issues as factors contributing to the recent weakness in the PC market. In particular, last year's floods in Thailand, a country that produces one-third of the world's hard drives, caused a significant supply problem.

The popularity of tablets and smartphones is also hurting the PC market. "The use of applications such as e-mail, social networking, and Internet access, that were traditionally the domain of the PC, are now being used across media tablets and smartphones, making these devices in some cases more valued and attractive propositions," said Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner, in a prepared statement.

Cloud-based services are another factor, according to Gartner. "We expect the shift to the personal cloud will also accelerate as consumers increasingly adopt cloud-based services as part of their digital ecosystem," said Atwal. "The evolution of the personal cloud will challenge vendors across all mobile devices markets and add to the hurdles for PC vendors to overcome to revive the PCs and differentiate them from tablets."

Although tablets are tools primarily for content consumption, and PCs are better suited to content creation, Atwal thinks that difference may not be enough to counteract the growth in the media tablet market.

While the PC market is expected to remain stagnant this year, Gartner expects better growth in 2013, with shipments exceeding 400 million units in that year.

The impending release of Windows 8 and increased interest in ultrabooks could help revive the market, Gartner reported, though it is still uncertain how much of an effect Windows 8 will have. The new OS is currently available as a "consumer preview" version, with a final release expected in late 2012 or early 2013.

Atwal said Windows 8 needs to be compelling enough to get early adopters excited about PCs again.

Gartner predicted growing interest in ultrabooks in the second half of 2012. Ultrabooks are lightweight, high-performance laptops with solid-state drives and long battery life.

PCs have saturated the market and sales occur primarily when people need to replace their existing unit. According to Atwal, most PC growth will take place in emerging markets, both in the short and long term. "Our expectation is that 2012 and then 2013 onwards will be supported by growth in emerging markets as their share increases from just over 50 percent in 2011 to nearly 70 percent in 2016," said Atwal.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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