Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

How Will PCs Sales Grow in 2012? Sloooooowly.

The worldwide business of PCs is still growing but it’s growing a lot slower than it used to, says the market research firm Garnter, in a forecast out today.

While 368 million units — the number Gartner reckons will be sold this year — seems like an awful lot, it amounts to growth of only 4.4 percent over 2011. The economy — Europe is still weak amid ongoing sovereign debt problems, plus supply chain troubles brought on by the flooding in Thailand where most of the world’s hard drives are made — is weighing the market down, Gartner says.

What will save it? Windows 8 and Ultrabooks, but not before 2013, when Gartner says to expect sales of 400 million PCs. They might stimulate renewed interest among consumers and businesses. But it’s hard to say.

What about Apple’s iPad and other tablets running Android eating into PC sales? There’s no question that they do. But that impact is relative: Gartner last sized up the scope of the tablet market last fall, and pegged it at 64 million units in 2012, which is probably conservative, seeing as how Apple sold 15 million iPads in the fourth quarter of 2011.

What has often happened with forecasts like this is that chipmaker Intel gets batted around a bit in a negative way, as financial analysts work the forecasts into their own expectations for the stock. If PC sales are slowing, the thinking goes, then Intel, which supplies most of the world’s PC microprocessors, will no doubt suffer.

Intel has tended to do well despite these forecasts, and cites growth in certain developing markets, like Brazil, India and Russia, where Gartner and other research firms have more limited visibility, as keeping demand for its chips growing.

Gartner tries to address that point in a summary of its forecast: Emerging markets will be key to driving growth, says its analyst, Ranjit Atwal, and most of the growth in the PC business will come from these countries through 2016. But the upshot is that if all you can think about is buying a new iPad and not a new PC, you’re not exactly alone in the world.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik