In a forecast that could cast a pall over an already depressed industry, research firm iSuppli said global personal computer shipments this year were expected to shrink for the first time since the dotcom boom went bust in 2001. Plunging desktop computer sales and generally lower spending on information technology by companies worldwide will result in a 4 per cent fall in shipments to 287.3 million units from 299.2 million units last year, according to iSuppli. The forecast was made ahead of this week's releases by market research firms Gartner and International Data Corp of their preliminary estimates for second-quarter personal computer shipments, which are likely to show modest growth in emerging markets such as China. 'An annual decline in unit shipments is highly unusual in the personal computer market,' said Matthew Wilkins, the principal analyst for computer platforms at iSuppli. 'Even in weak years, [global] personal computer unit shipments typically rise by single-digit percentages.' In 2001, worldwide shipments slid 5.1 per cent owing to the extraordinary impact of the bursting dotcom bubble, triggering a contraction in information technology investment. But iSuppli said unit shipments would increase 4.7 per cent next year. Charles Guo, an analyst at JP Morgan Securities, said iSuppli's revised forecast for this year - from its earlier prediction of 0.7 per cent growth - was in line with the view of many brokerage houses. 'Sales in China may be strong, but most of the overseas markets remain weak, especially in the corporate sector,' said Mr Guo. He said the mainland personal computer market rose about 14 per cent in the second quarter from a year earlier, benefiting domestic market leader Lenovo Group and other major suppliers. According to iSuppli, the main reason for the decline in shipments this year is the estimated 18.1 per cent drop in desktop computers to 124.4 million units from 151.9 million units last year. In contrast, notebook computer shipments may rise 11.7 per cent to 155.97 million units. 'Mobility is winning out in the personal computer market,' said Mr Wilkins, noting that global laptop shipments would exceed those of desktops on an annual basis for the first time ever this year.