South Africa is broadly following international PC trends, says a local analyst. This follows Gartner upping its forecast, saying global shipments will rise 10.2% this year to 202.1 million units. The international research firm previously predicted that PC shipments would rise 9.9% this year compared to 2004.

It says worldwide mobile PC shipments are expected to grow 26.5% in 2005, while desktop units are now forecast to grow 4.6%. Mobile PCs currently make up slightly less than 30% of all PC shipments.

Laurika Moller, an analyst at South African research firm BMI-TechKnowledge, says local PC shipments are forecast to total 1.2 million units this year with the notebook/laptop segment comprising 23.89%. This segment will also show the greatest growth rate at 23.3% compared to a relatively sedentary 5% growth for desktop PCs.

“Mobile PCs are continuing to attract more new users as mobile prices fall and wireless becomes more pervasive,” says George Shiffler, a Gartner principal analyst. “Growing numbers of users are replacing their old desktops with more portable mobiles, and this is one of several factors helping to boost mobile PC growth."

Gartner analysts see few new technology drivers that could help stimulate PC sales in 2005.

Mikako Kitagawa, another Gartner principal analyst, says dual-core processors will attract some attention, but will mostly pique the interest of techies and early adopters.

"Many applications that take full advantage of dual-core capabilities are still being developed and won't be available until next year at the earliest,” he says.

Replacement activity has helped drive double-digit PC growth over the last two years, but Gartner analysts said replacement activity will begin to wane this year.

"Professional replacement activity is in the process of peaking and will fade rapidly over the rest of the year," Shiffler says.

"Meanwhile, home replacement activity is expected to peak early next year and fade more gradually over 2006. This one-two punch will push market growth back into single-digits by next year despite stronger mobile PC growth.”

Moller says South African PC shipments are still being driven by the ongoing replacement cycle.

“The small business sector is still a major battlefield among vendors, but there is some corporate refresh still happening,” she says.

BMI-TechKnowledge is due to release its South African 2005 first quarter PC sales figures this week.