RealTime IT News

1 Billion PCs and Counting

It took about 30 years for the number of installed PCs in the world to top a billion, but the 2 billion mark will be reached in a fraction of that time.

That's the conclusion of research by Gartner analysts who predict 2 billion will be passed a mere six years from now in early 2014.

Gartner's estimates are for the number of installed PCs, not just the number shipped. The installed market is heavily concentrated in what the research firm calls "mature markets," but the next big growth is set to come from emerging markets.

Mature markets such as the United States, Europe and Japan cover about 58 percent of the world's installed PCs even though these markets account for only 15 percent of the world's population.

But Gartner (NYSE: IT) forecasts PC penetration will ramp up as the economy and per capita income of emerging markets continue to improve.

"In the U.S. the professional market is pretty tapped out," George Shiffler, a research director at Gartner, told InternetNews.com. "Everyone that could use a PC in the professional space has one."

According to Shiffler, PC growth in the United States is driven more by replacement cycles.

On the consumer side, more opportunity for growth exists as families look to add second and third PCs.

Environmental concerns

Gartner notes that while some PCs are handed down to second owners and other broken up and recycled, many are simply dumped in landfills.

Meike Escherich, a principal research analyst at Gartner, predicts more than 180 million PCs will be replaced this year worldwide and about 20 percent of those (35 million) "will be dumped into landfill with little or no regard for their toxic content."

Many of the major PC vendors have enacted recycling and other green computing efforts in concert with -- and sometimes ahead of -- government regulation.

But Escherich said environmental concerns stand to become even more of an issue in emerging markets, which have yet to develop extensive environmental regulations.

Shiffler said Gartner defines a PC as computers (both desktops and notebooks) that run a mainstream operating system such as Windows, Mac OS or Linux. Recent additions include a new class of lost-cost educational computers and "mini-notebooks" by companies such as Asus.

"It's a clever idea, but it's not clear to me if these mini-notebooks have a market," Shiffler said. "Just because you can build them, doesn't mean there's a demand."

Schiffler noted that notebook prices are dropping and now "don't cost much more than these new low-end systems that don't have all the features of a full-function PC."