- Associated Press - Thursday, November 10, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - Heavy flooding in Thailand won’t hurt PC sales significantly this holiday season, research group IDC says.

The disaster’s real effect isn’t expected to hit makers of personal computers until early next year. In a worst-case scenario, PC shipments could drop more than 20 percent from previous forecasts in the first quarter of 2012.

Many of the personal computers that will be sold during the holiday season have already been produced or can be made with existing supplies of hard drives, limiting disruptions from the flooding, IDC said Thursday. IDC expects PC shipments in the October-December quarter to be less than 10 percent below earlier forecasts because of constraints in the supply of hard drives.

Computer manufacturers, the companies that supply hard drives and the makers of components for those drives have been bracing for troubles. Many factories that produce hard drives in Thailand have temporarily closed as flooding has gradually spread since August. Prices for hard drives have spiked, and computer makers such as Dell Inc. and Apple Inc. have been monitoring supplies.

John Rydning, IDC’s research vice president for hard drives and semiconductors, said larger manufacturers will likely get first access to the hard drive supplies that are available. But another IDC analyst, Loren Loverde, said that even the largest vendors will face shortages.

IDC said Thailand accounted for up to 45 percent of worldwide hard drive production in the first half of the year. It said nearly half of that capacity was affected by the flooding as of early November.

On Wednesday, Cisco Systems Inc. said it was watching for the effect on disk drives for its set-top boxes and on its optical-networking products. It said it has contingency plans in place to minimize any impact and has factored that into forecasts, but it expects things won’t return to normal for several quarters.