Worldwide PC shipments will slow in 2005 as the latest replacement cycle winds down, but will still post a 9 per cent increase over last year, Gartner said Tuesday.

The analyst firm predicted that 199 million PCs would be shipped globally this year, compared to 183 million last year.

The slowed growth comes as no surprise given that 2004 was a strong year for PC replacements, said Gartner analyst Ranjit Atwal. What's more, the dip is expected to continue through 2007 to 2008, Atwal said.

"We expect a double whammy of low growth and flat revenues," he said.

The revenue decline will be due to falling PC prices, Atwal said. This is aggravated by the fact that many of the higher growth areas are in price sensitive emerging markets, which tend to buy lower-cost PCs, he added.

Mobile PC shipments will continue to drive the market, Gartner said, increasing by 17.4 per cent over 2004. Desktop PCs, meanwhile, are forecast to grow by 6.1 per cent.

Mobile PCs have been taking the lead on desktops for some time, as prices have fallen and they have appealed to a broader range of users with expanded wireless and multimedia features, Gartner said. For desktops to regain prominence, vendors must position them as digital media hubs, according to the analyst company.

While there are a handful of multimedia desktop PCs on the market, their prices remain high, Gartner said.

Another challenge for desktops is their relatively low level of interoperability with other media devices and less sexy image compared to laptops and many other devices, the researcher suggested.

However, desktops will continue to be popular in the professional market, Atwal said.

One factor that may affect future shipments of both desktop and mobile PCs is a lengthening of the replacement cycle due to improved technology, Atwal said. As computers get more sophisticated, users see less need to replace them as often.

The current replacement cycle for desktop PCs is around four years, whereas mobile PCs are replaced at an average of every three years, according to Gartner.

"These lifecycles could easily increase because of the technology," Atwal said.