IT analyst Gartner paints a gloomy picture for the future of PC sales in face of a shaky global economy and the threat of war with Iraq. This isn't good news for the desktop manufacturers who have already been struggling over the past year, and we may well see more casualties join the likes of Dan and Panrix.

But there is a glimmer of hope for the beleaguered desktop as Gartner's latest figures do anticipate some growth in the worldwide market for 2002, albeit of just 2.8 percent. But for key markets, including Western Europe and the US the picture isn't even that rosy; the European market is set for negative growth of -0.1 percent, while the US is expected to see growth of just 1.7 percent.

While 2002 may prove to be a washout, 2003 and beyond could see the humble desktop faring better, with a global growth of 10.9 percent predicted for 2003, and 11.5 percent for 2004, with around five percent growth for each year seen in the Western European market. But Gartner is keen to point out that continuing economic and political instability could easily cause these figures to fall.

Gartner also attributed the slow down in sales to customers' unwillingness to frequently upgrade their desktop PCs, and this saturation of mature markets will continue to be a problem for those selling into markets such as the UK and US.

There is some hope for those who branch out into different form factors as the rise in mobile PC sales has shown. In fact the market for mobile PCs has grown by 6.1 percent according to Gartner figures released earlier this year. Indeed we are starting to see evidence of this trend among the desktop stalwarts of PC Advisor's reviews pages, with Multivision releasing its first notebook PC, the Visage (see page 70 of the November issue of PC Advisor, on sale now).

Other factors that could help to boost sales include new features, such as USB 2.0, Bluetooth and WiFi and new form factors like the forthcoming Tablet PC (watch out for PC Advisor's first review of Acer's TravelMate 100 Tablet PC in our December issue).

However, the speed with which such innovations affect the market may not be swift if the slow uptake of Windows XP among corporates is anything to go by. A poll carried out by Computerworld, one of PC Advisor's sister magazines in the States, found that of the 25 major corporates across a range of industries it surveyed only four planned to move over to XP. So it seems like it takes more than the might of Microsoft to get PC buyers out shopping nowadays.