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International Data Corporation, a leading research firm, said PC sales in 2004 were likely to continue to rally, while the outlook for PC shipments in 2005 became more conservative than previously.

Consistent gains in commercial PC demand have led IDC to raise expectations for 2004 PC shipments to 176.5 million on growth of 14.2%. Commercial PC shipment growth of 17.2% in the second quarter was the highest since mid-1999, and the fourth consecutive quarter over 13%, according to IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker. Although worldwide consumer growth met expectations in the second quarter, growth is expected to slow from near 20% in the second half of 2003 to only 9% in the second half of 2004. Even with the slowdown in consumer activity, commercial growth has led IDC to increase projections for total 2004 shipment growth from a June estimate of 13.5% to a current projection of 14.2%.

Despite the increase, second quarter growth accounted for 58% of the total change to 2004 shipment volumes with only 42% falling into the second half of the year. In addition, growth estimates for 2005 were lowered 0.2% to 10.5% and projections for growth in future years remain in single digits. There are also regional variations in consumer and commercial growth that are important to be aware of.

“The market needs to be careful in interpreting these results. Strong growth in Western Europe and Rest of World played a significant role in boosting second quarter results, while growth in the United States missed forecasts and slipped into single-digits. Similarly, it's important to note that we've lowered growth expectations for the consumer and portable markets even though projections for overall growth have increased slightly in the short term,” said Loren Loverde, director of IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker.

High growth in recent quarters is partially the result of a depressed market in prior years. As the market recovery matures, year-on-year comparisons will become more difficult, and growth is expected to subside, IDC believes.

“The tempered forecast of the US market is somewhat in contrast to higher growth elsewhere, particularly in Europe. Overall market maturity in the United States and uncertainty in both political and economic spheres has led us to revise our forecast modestly downward,” added Roger Kay, vice president of Client Computing at IDC.

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