IT research company Gartner predicts that the PC industry will suffer its worst decline in history in 2009. The research firm expects PC sales to drop to 257 million units in 2009, an 11.9 percent drop. “The PC industry is facing extraordinary conditions as the global economy continues to weaken, users stretch PC lifetimes and PC suppliers grow increasingly cautious,” said George Shiffler, research director at Gartner. Most of the decline will be in the slowly dying desktop market, which Gartner predicts will fall 31.9 percent. Mobile computer sales, on the other hand, are expected to increase 9 percent.

Netbooks have been the one bright light for the PC industry, continually dominating Amazon’s top-seller list. Gartner predicts netbook sales will jump from 11.7 million units sold in 2008 to 21 million in 2009. But netbooks only represent eight percent of total PC sales.

More significantly, the profit margin on netbooks is slim, so even though the number of units sold is increasing, they’re not generating considerable revenue. Gartner does note that consumers are moving towards more powerful netbooks with larger screens, which will increase earnings somewhat.

If February was any indication, the PC market might fare even worse than Gartner predicts. Last week, Dell reported a walloping 48 percent drop in income for Q4; the PC maker's revenue fell 16 percent. Desktop sales fell 27 percent, and notebook sales dropped 17 percent.

HP reported earlier this month that its PC sales fell 19 percent in Q4.

By Mark Alvarez