Worldwide shipments of personal computers will grow by 13.2 per cent in 1999, spurred by strong demand for lower-cost machines and the strength of the US and Western European markets, International Data Corp predicted recently.
Sales in the US and Western Europe - which account for 73 per cent of total worldwide PC shipments - will play a major role in boosting PC shipments from a forecast of 80.2 million units this year to 89 million units in 1999, market researcher IDC said at its annual PC Market Outlook conference held in Santa Clara, California.
IDC forecasts that PC shipments in the US will rise 13.9 per cent to 40.1 million units next year, while this year PC shipments are expected to grow 14.3 per cent to 36 million, IDC said.
IDC also expects shipments in Western Europe to grow 11.8 per cent to 25.4 million in 1999, a smaller growth rate than 1998's forecast of 16.7 per cent to 22.8 million.
The Asia-Pacific market - excluding Japan - will rebound in 1999 to grow 16.9 per cent to 11.9 million units, with much of the growth coming in the second half of 1999. For 1998, IDC's forecast for the Asia-Pacific market calls for a 1.6 per cent decline of shipments to 10.2 million.
Japan, meanwhile, will see a growth of 5.9 per cent in PC shipments next year to 8 million, up from this year's expected decline of 4 per cent with shipments totalling 7.6 million, IDC said.
"Western Europe is helping drive up sales in general," said Ian Darbyshire, an analyst at IDC in London.
A year ago, two of Europe's largest markets, France and Germany, were slow, but now they are bouncing back, he said.
Other factors driving the expected growth is a rebounding portable PC market and the continuing expansion of the low-cost PC market, with PCs expected to hit the $US500 mark within the next 12 months, IDC said.
On the other hand, factors that may inhibit the global PC market next year include the ongoing economic crises in Russia, Japan and the Asia-Pacific region in general, IDC said. Other factors also include a possible delay of Microsoft's Windows NT operating system and expected strong competition from smart handheld and consumer devices.
Among the reasons that PC sales are rising in Europe is across-the-board price cuts that have allowed the average consumer to buy a PC, according to IDC's Darbyshire.
Another factor driving up sales is the "home schemes" taking place in Scandinavian countries, where companies buy PCs for their employees in return for tax breaks.
In general, European economies at the moment are stronger than many other regions, especially compared to Asia. However, Eastern Europe has been hit hard by the Russian crisis, which has reduced IDC's overall PC shipment forecast for the region, Darbyshire said. Most of the Eastern European countries are bouncing back, but Russia's problem is so great it has dampened the entire region.