ISuppli predicts 1Q PC shipment shortfall

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) ? Major flooding in Thailand is expected to result in a shortfall of nearly 4 million PCs ? most of them laptops ? shipped in the first quarter of 2012, market researcher IHS iSuppli predicted Thursday.

Computer manufacturers, the companies that supply hard drives, and the makers of components for those drives have been bracing for troubles. Many factories that produce hard drives in Thailand have temporarily closed as flooding has gradually spread since August.

Because of the hard drive shortage, iSuppli now expects global PC shipments to total 84.2 million in the first three months of 2012, down from a previous estimate of 88 million. This would be a drop of nearly 12 percent from the October to December period, assuming PC shipments in the current quarter total 95.3 million, as iSuppli expects.

The holiday quarter tends to be the busiest time of year for PC makers, so lower shipments are expected in the first quarter. But iSuppli noted that it’s anticipating a quarter-over-quarter drop that is almost twice as large as usual.

ISuppli said it believes that by the second half of 2012 PC shipments will no longer be hurt by hard disk drive shortages, but the market researcher thinks the weakened economy and popularity of tablet computers will lead to lower shipments than previously expected. ISuppli now estimates manufacturers will ship 376 million computers next year, down from an earlier estimate of 399 million.

Last month, research group IDC also predicted the flooding would hurt first-quarter PC shipments ? it thinks PC shipments could be as much as 20 percent lower than previous forecasts in the first quarter.