The global PC market may be turning a corner, research firm IDC reveals in its analysis of first-quarter 2002 sales figures.

Though the global PC market hasn’t achieved positive year-on-year growth, the market isn’t declining as much as had been projected, the analysts claim. This could signal a return to health in the industry.

For the first quarter of 2002, computer-makers worldwide shipped 31.4 million personal computers, down 2.7 per cent from the 32.2 million shipped in the first quarter 2001 – but up from the 5.4 per cent year-on-year decline that had been expected for the quarter, IDC said. First-quarter shipments were down 8.9 per cent over the fourth-quarter of 2001.

US shipments for the quarter (which ended March 31) were down only 0.4 per cent from 2001, and the decline from the fourth-quarter holiday season of 2001 was 6.1 per cent – less than the historical average of 10.4 per cent, IDC said. Total shipments for the quarter were 10.6 million, down from 10.64 million in the first quarter 2001.

General improvement IDC’s figures differ from those of competitor Dataquest. Dataquest believes that US PC shipments rose 2.3 per cent in the first quarter 2002 compared to Q1 2001.

Either way, the growth in the worldwide market is being driven by a general economic improvement, said Loren Loverde, director of IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker. Aggressive pricing by vendors and users replacing older PCs also played a factor, he said.

As the economy improves, IDC expects the US to lead the recovery, with Europe being a bit more cautious, but with larger growth potential. Asia also showed strong growth in the first-quarter, with both South Korea and Australia posting growth, IDC said.

Loverde expects that overall PC shipments will increase as the year goes on, with education-buying driving the trend in the second and third-quarters. Business and holiday spending will be strong at the end of the year.

“The trend would be to ramp towards the second half of the year,” Loverde said. “The economic and technology drivers will support definite improvement in the second half of the year.”