Significant growth is forecast for 2012 and beyond, despite Steve Jobs' declaration at WWDC that Apple intends to "demote the PC and Mac to be just a device." Factoring in new economic data and the effect of tablets and other devices, technology analyst firm IDC predicts sales will be lower this year than initially anticipated. However, starting next year we should see the PC market recover -- driven in particular by laptop sales.
In the IDC report, Loren Loverde, vice president at Worldwide Consumer Device Trackers, says the market has "definitely hit a slow patch," but the long-term fundamentals are still intact.
Laptops will be the main drivers of this growth, with 20 percent compound growth overall from 2010 to 2015 for emerging markets and 7 percent growth for mature markets. The PC market may get a boost, the report says, from "thinner designs, longer battery life, instant on, touch, and other improvements" that will be more widely available in 2012.
The trend toward thinner and lighter laptops with longer-lasting batteries is already in play, with Intel's recently introduced sub-$1,000 Ultrabooks and even business notebooks like the Lenovo ThinkPad X1.
With these laptop innovations in mind, Intel remains optimistic about this year's PC sales. While IDC has cut its PC growth forecast for 2011 from 7.1 percent to 4.2 percent, Intel is not changing its forecast of an 11 percent gain, according to the Wall Street Journal. Intel's forecast is even in light of tablets possibly cannibalizing one-third of laptop sales.
There's little doubt that the iPad is eating into laptop sales. But even with more focus today than ever before on tablets, smartphones, and cloud-based services and storage (e.g., Apple's iCloud), the PC will still stay relevant, as the long-term growth prospects indicate. For many people, the laptop (or desktop) will continue to be the main computer, not just another device.