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PC shipments growing faster than expected

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Worldwide shipments of PCs rose 16.6 percent from the same period a year ago, according to IDC, far above the research firm's May forecast of 12.3 percent. In all, 46.6 million desktops, notebooks and servers containing Intel, Advanced Micro Devices or PowerPC chips left factories during the quarter.

Rival Gartner, meanwhile, reported similar trends, although the exact numbers differ. Gartner said PC shipments grew by 14.8 percent, better than expected, with more than 48 million PCs leaving factories. Gartner and IDC have different methodologies for counting "white box," or unbranded, PCs.

While many of the machines went to buyers who already own PCs, evidence is mounting that relentless price cuts are allowing manufacturers to reach new customers. Shipment growth in Asia and Latin America is growing rapidly, said Loren Loverde, an analyst at IDC, while shipment growth in established economies like the United States and Japan are lower and more predictable. PC makers in the past few years have attempted to target consumers in emerging markets.

"Maybe were getting more new users than previously acknowledged," Loverde said.

The desire to shift from desktops to notebooks is also propelling a replacement cycle, said Charles Smulders of Gartner. That's good news for many manufacturers' bottom line; not only do notebooks typically sell for more than desktops, they typically also are replaced faster by consumers.

"In Asia-Pacific, we are also seeing new users being persuaded to buy notebooks," Smulders said.

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