Stronger-than-expected growth in PC shipments in the US and Europe and a resurgence in corporate spending has led market research firm IDC to raise its PC shipment forecasts for 2003 and 2004.

Worldwide PC shipments are now expected to grow 11.4 percent in 2003, up from previous expectations of 8.4 percent growth for the year. The recovery from the dark days of 2001 is also expected to continue into the next year, with 11.4 percent growth also forecast for 2004, up from previous expectations of 10.2 percent.

"It looks to me like this recovery is pretty broad-based, and therefore sustainable," said Roger Kay, vice president of client computing for IDC.

After expressing pessimism about PC shipment growth earlier in the year, IDC has now twice raised its forecasts as businesses have started to add to the steady PC growth among consumers. In September, the company bumped its expectations up from 6.3 percent growth in 2003 to 8.4 percent. In December 2002, IDC had predicted 2003 growth of 8.3 percent, but lowered those expectations in March and June based on a decline in US public sector spending and the effects of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus in Asia.

Shipments of PCs to commercial customers were basically flat through 2001 and 2002, but a replacement cycle appears to be under way. Worldwide growth in commercial shipments is expected to reach 10.5 percent in 2003 and 12.6 in 2004, IDC said.

Most of the shipment growth continues to come from notebooks, Kay said. Both businesses and consumers are replacing their desktops with notebooks, although desktop growth was better than expected, he said.

While businesses are responsible for the latest uptick in growth expectations, consumer spending continues to provide the majority of the growth expected for this year, Kay said. But that trend is expected to change in 2004 when consumer growth falls to 9.2 percent. Consumer shipments grew 13.2 percent in 2003.

Shipments to the U.S. and Europe exceeded earlier expectations, but growth in Asia is still stronger overall, Kay said. The region will probably miss the growth predictions set earlier this year due to the effects of SARS earlier this year, but is expected to be a growth engine for PC shipments over the coming years, he said.