We will have more than one PC at home in years to come, according to Edwin van der Harst from Forrester Research. PC ownership will be similar to mobile phone ownership in today’s households, he predicts.

Van der Harst indicates that there will be a complete saturation of the PC market by 2003.

Sales of PCs are slowing according to market research firm PC Data, which recorded a one percent slide in sales last year, compared to the year before. Sales of other internet enabled devices, such as mobile phones, are continuing to grow, with Orange now boasting almost 30m subscribers.

Internet TVs are gaining popularity in the UK, but still account for only two percent of homes accessing the internet. Van Der Harst does not believe that the PC will lose its place as the primary device for internet access.

“The PC will still be used, it will just mean the manufacturers will have to work harder to encourage new sales,” he said. “Other internet devices are evolving but [for the foreseeable future] they will not offer the same richness as the PC.”

Sellers will therefore become reliant on existing customers updating their machines. The problem that users will face is what to do with their old machines. Disposal of large numbers of PCs could create an environmental disaster.

A recent EC Directive lays the responsibility for safe disposal on the PC vendors, shifting the burden from the end user, but this will raise costs for vendors. Any increase to the price of PCs would further drive down sales.

“The costs will be met either by the producers or the corporate users, which will be thrashed out in negotiations when they buy equipment,” said Claire Snow, director of ICER (Industry Council for Electronic Equipment Recycling).