Analysts at iSuppli have increased predictions for PC sales in 2007, citing stronger-than-anticipated demand for laptops.

iSuppli now predicts global PC shipments will rise to 264 million units in 2007, up 11.2 per cent from 239 million in 2006. The previous forecast envisioned 10.7 per cent growth for the year.

“Notebook PC shipments rose to 21.8 million units in the first quarter of 2007, up 23 per cent from 17.7 million in the first quarter of 2006,” said Matthew Wilkins, principal analyst, compute platforms, for iSuppli.

“First-quarter notebook PC shipments were 3 per cent higher than we had previously anticipated. There were concerns that the second-quarter release of Intel’s new Santa Rosa notebook microprocessor platform might cause buyers to delay purchases originally set for the first quarter. However, Santa Rosa did not have a significant negative effect on first-quarter shipments.”

iSuppli expects notebooks to account for almost 40 per cent of total 2007 PC market shipments.

The analysts also issued revised forecasts for the use of flash memory drives as a replacement for hard drives in laptops, predicting that flash-equipped portables would account for 12 per cent of the market by the end of 2009.

They also expect 35 per cent of notebooks will be equipped with Hybrid Hard Drives (HHD) (flash combined with hard drives) by the end of 2009.

Krishna Chander, iSuppli senior analyst for storage research observed: “Although in the near term, their cost will remain a prohibitive factor for mass-market adoption, this cost gap will narrow during the coming years, leading to their wider usage.”

Chander added: “The penetration of HHDs in notebooks will rise more quickly in the near term than for solid state drives, given that HDD vendors are increasing both the capacity and areal density of their notebooks in 2007 and beyond. Furthermore, HHDs cost less to produce and offer a level of data integrity that can only be delivered by tried-and-true HDD technology.

Intel’s Robson - also known as Turbo Memory - is also expected to take off in 2007. The combination of SSDs, HHDs, Turbo Memory and other solutions will propel flash memory’s penetration of notebook data storage to nearly 60 per cent by the fourth quarter of 2009, iSuppli predicts.