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Tuesday, 24 June 2008 04:12

1 Billion PCs but 180 million will be dumped this year

New Gartner report says that the number of installed PCs globally has gone past the 1 billion units figure, and is heading for 2 billion by 2014. Worryingly though, 180 million PCs will be replaced this year, 35 million in landfill with no thought for the environmental impact.

Gartner has published its Forecast: PC Installed Base, Worldwide, 2004-2012 report which reveals the worldwide installed base of PCs as being 1 billion units. That is the number of PCs actually in use, rather than the more arbitrary metric of the number of units shipped over any given period.

Analysts estimate that the installed base is growing at 12 percent per annum, meaning that there will be 2 billion PCs by 2014 if that rate remains steady.

Of course, the distribution of those machines tells an interesting story and the installed base remains firmly and heavily concentrated in the mature markets that you might expect. Gartner does reckon that emerging markets will continue to claim an increasingly larger share over time though. Especially as the rapidly rising PC penetration in those markets drives double-digit growth.

“Mature markets such as the United States, Western Europe, and Japan currently account for 58 percent of the world’s installed PCs, but these markets only account for 15 percent of the world’s population,” said George Shiffler, research director at Gartner. “There’s a startling difference in per capita PC penetration between mature and emerging markets. Of course, much of this difference reflects the disparity in average living standards between mature and emerging markets. But, rapid economic development across emerging markets is not only narrowing the disparity in average living standards, it's closing the difference in per capita PC penetration between mature and emerging markets.”

The emerging markets are taking the lead when it comes to reducing the digital divide by promoting PC use with schemes that provide computers directly to the less affluent population. Indeed, Gartner expect emerging markets to account for around 70 percent of the second billion PCs, compared to mature markets which accounted for 60 percent of the first.

An unfortunate side-effect of this growth in installed computers is the rise in churn rate that accompanies it. As users upgrade and replace older machines, so that global base is constantly being churned. While some are recycled, many are simply dumped in landfill with no regard to environmental concerns.

How many? Well Gartner estimate that 16 percent of the installed base will be replaced this year. That's a stonking 180 million PCs. Worryingly, Meike Escherich, principal research analyst at Gartner, estimates that "a fifth of these, or some 35 million PCs, will be dumped into landfill with little or no regard for their toxic content."

"The disposition of retired PCs has become a high-profile issue for many PC vendors, governments and environmental interest groups. It will become an even more pressing issue, especially in emerging markets, as the number of retired PCs grows with the continuing expansion of the PC installed base" Escherich concludes.

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