Analyst firms Gartner and IDC made headline news last month when they released their 2009 PC sales forecasts.  Once again, they caused quite a stir among industry leaders, influential analysts and journalists, who were all forced to revisit the debate surrounding the implicit demise of the desktop PC.

Around this time, I was on a briefing with Greenough client IGEL Technology and a well-known eWeek editor, who commented on seeing the “demise of the PC” story played out numerous times – in both business and trade press – over the past ten years.  A quick Google search revealed that he was spot on; a myriad of examples can be found on the hotly debated story.  Here’s a brief sample of what’s already been said:

•    InfoWorld’s “PC at a crossroads (link unavailable)” (1999)
•    Newsweek’sTwilight of the PC Era?” (2003)
•    Computerworld’sDecline of the Desktop” (2005),
•    InformationWeek’sHere We Go Again: Thin-Client Vendors Look To Unseat PC” (2005)
•    BusinessWeek’sCompanies Seek PC Alternatives” (2008)

Another example was IDC’s 2001 report on the First-Ever Decline in U.S. PC Sales, which was attributed at that time to a “sluggish economy.”  Put into context with today’s harsh economy, the report gives us a sense of the ebb and flow of the desktop PC market. 

As we crawl through this period of tough economic times, the question becomes: “are there other factors – outside of economics – that are causing the decline in desktop PC sales?  Some factors to consider include: consumers’ preference for mobile technologies like laptops and netbooks, and increased awareness and interest in PC alternatives including virtual desktops and thin clients.  This article from Virtualization Review, The Disappearing Desktop: How VDI Is Changing the Game, offers another insightful prediction from IDC.  This time around, the analyst firm suggests the market for desktop virtualization software will grow to $1.7 billion by 2011.

Given the variety of factors contributing to the decline in PC sales, and the contradictory opinions about what’s next for the market, we’re either facing another case of history repeating itself or 2009 will mark the true beginning of the end for the traditional PC.  These are the stories we're considering.

Which do you think?

– Contributed by Chantal LeBoulch.  Follow her @cleboulch