PC shipment growth will slow a little bit more in 2005 than previously expected, as the consumer market catches its breath after the past few years.

That's according to IDC which predicts that worldwide PC shipments will grow 9.7 percent in 2005, down from IDC's last prediction of 10.1 percent growth published last November. If that rate holds, PC vendors will ship 195.4 million units in 2005, valued at US$209 billion.

The weaker forecast for 2005 growth comes as consumers and businesses are coping with factors such as the lacklustre performance of the US stock market, high energy prices and rising interest rates, said Roger Kay, vice president for client computing at IDC.

Growth should decline further in 2006, to around 8.6 percent worldwide, IDC said. Shipment growth is expected to remain above 8 percent for the rest of the decade, the company said.

Consumer growth has propelled the PC market around the world over the last few years, but consumer purchasing fell behind business activity in most regions during 2004, said Loren Loverde, director of IDC's Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker. Businesses in the U.S. and Asia are now in the midst of a long-awaited replacement cycle, discarding PCs they bought around 1999 and 2000 for new systems, and shipments to business customers will grow faster than consumer shipments in 2005 on a worldwide basis, IDC said.

However, in Western Europe consumers are still the primary driver for 2005 PC shipment growth, especially when looking at the notebook market, IDC said.

The worldwide trends toward stronger business activity and notebook PC adoption will hold in 2005 and beyond, IDC said. Growth is slowing in mature economies like the US and Western Europe, but is set to expand as PCs become more prevalent in emerging economies in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, the company said.

IDC is a division of International Data Group, the parent company of IDG News Service and Techworld