Analyst firm Forrester forecasts that worldwide PC numbers will rise to hit 2 billion by 2015, with more than 1 billion of these in use by the end of next year.

The research predicts a dramatic growth in PCs, particularly in emerging markets, with a worldwide compound annual growth rate of more than 12 percent between 2003 and 2015.

While it will have taken 27 years to reach 1 billion PCs, Forrester says it will take only five years to reach the next billion. The analyst firm attributes this boom to lower prices and growing demand as the world population becomes "technology-aware."

The Brazil, Russia, India and China market will account for more than 775 million new PCs by 2015.

But the PC market may be less predictable as PC sales surge in new markets. While buyers in mature markets behave more predictably, high volume launches into emerging markets are risky, according to Forrester. "Vendors won't have the luxury of introducing products on a small scale to test the market before going into full production because the economics will force suppliers to focus on bringing volume to market more quickly at much greater risk," states the report.

Life cycles will be longer in emerging markets, said Simon Yates, Forrester research vice president and research director. "Vendors, accustomed to mature markets where the average life cycle is between four and five years, will need to have a deep understanding of how to work in these markets and, with less of a market for replacement PCs, will need to band together to scale production for these emerging regions."

The Forrester report, Worldwide PC Adoption Forecast To 2015, lauds the push into untapped markets. Programs such as Microsoft Unlimited Potential, the Intel World Ahead Program, the AMD 50x15 initiative, and non-profit One Laptop per Child (OLPC) project have been established to extend access to digital technology to citizens who have been excluded in the past.

Forrester called on other major system vendors to get involved and demonstrate similar corporate citizenship in order for the PC industry to scale production enough to "ship five times the number of systems at one-fifth the cost."

"There is nothing more important to the long-term health of the technology industry - and personal technology in particular - than the ability to deliver relevant, accessible and affordable technology to the billions of people worldwide who have not been exposed to it," said Yates.

"The industry can probably survive selling incrementally better hardware and software to the people who already have technology in their lives, but the vast majority of growth in the PC and related industries will come from emerging markets."

In 2004, the UNs estimated that around one billion people worldwide, 20 percent of the global population, still lack connection to any kind of information and communication technology.