The personal computer market's rapid growth will slow in the next few years because a recent rebound in computer replacements has left many customers with systems that won't soon need replacing, according to a forecast Monday from a technology research firm.
Framingham-based IDC said it expected a shift from a 15 percent annual growth rate in the past two years to around 10 percent over the next few years.
"Over the past couple years we've seen a recovery, but that rate can't be sustained going forward," said Loren Loverde, an IDC research director.
Loverde said the cyclical slowdown in replacements will be partially offset by three recent trends that are expected to continue the next few years: greater adoption of increasingly sophisticated portable computers, reduced computer prices, and market growth in developing countries.
"Those underlying factors will preserve long-term growth," Loverde said.
Microsoft Corp.'s announcement last week that it would delay the release of a consumer version of its new Windows Vista operating system could cause some buyers to put off PC purchases from late this year to next year, Loverde said. But he said the delay likely won't prevent PC purchases.
IDC forecasts global PC shipments to grow by 10.5 percent this year to 229.4 million units, up from 207.6 million last year. In 2007, IDC expects 10.7 percent growth, followed by 10.5 percent in 2008, 8.6 percent in 2009 and 8.2 percent in 2010.
In contrast, shipments rose 15.9 percent last year, 15.1 percent in 2004 and 12.1 percent in 2003. A slow economy limited growth to 2 percent in 2002, and PC shipments declined 3.6 percent in 2001.
Because of declining prices, the value of PC shipments the next few years is expected to grow at just 5 percent, about half as fast as the growth rate in shipments.
IDC's shipment forecast for 2006 was roughly in line with a report earlier this month by another research firm, Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc., which predicted PC shipments this year would increase 10.7 percent.