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Can media PCs save the desktop?

Can media PCs save the desktop?

The media PC could bolster flagging desktop sales, if vendors find a way to position them as a digital media hub.

This is the message from an U.S.-based Gartner analyst as the research firm predicts that growth in desktop PC shipments globally is to slow this year and will be outpaced by mobile machines.

In a preliminary forecast of global PC shipments for 2005 released today, Gartner's client platforms research analyst Kiyomi Yamada says that market growth could prove stronger if manufacturers are somehow able to position the PC as a digital media hub.

She adds media PCs remain relatively expensive and suffer from "spotty" reliability as well as troublesome ease-of-use and are handicapped by low interoperability with other media devices and poor aesthetics.

This is hurting their ability to compete against alternative devices that are both cheaper and more readily connected to media sources, Yamada contends.

Gartner projects that overall worldwide PC sales in 2005 will rise by nine percent with a total of 199 million units expected to be shipped. This is a drop from the 11.6 percent increase seen in 2004 over 2003.

Shipments of mobile PCs are expected to drive market growth by increasing 17.4 percent in 2005, as desktops shipments are only forecast to grow 6.1 percent worldwide.

A regional breakdown of Gartner's expectations for 2005 is not available yet, however, and according to a Sydney-based spokeswoman these are usually only released a few weeks after the global figures.

International Gartner analysts say that the slow down in growth for the overall PC market comes as both professional and home users wind down major replacement cycles.

Professional replacement activity peaked in 2004 and will decelerate sharply over 2005, while home replacement activity will continue to provide some strength to the market in 2005, but also seems likely slow by year-end, states the company.

Mobile PC shipments on the other hand will grow at a faster pace since the machines are becoming increasingly attractive to a broad range of users as system prices continue to fall, wireless experiences are being enhanced and multimedia and entertainment functionality is expanded.

Meanwhile, Gartner this week also released preliminary results that show worldwide revenues from personal digital assistant (PDA) sales rose by 16.7 percent to a record $4.3 billion in 2004 on the back of an increased average selling price. In the fourth quarter of 2004, the average selling price of PDAs reached US$353 ($492), up 9.4 percent from 2003.

A 6.6 percent increase in PDA shipments in 2004 was led by strong growth by Research In Motion's (RIM) BlackBerry device, says Gartner.


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