Research firm International Data Corp. expects sales of personal computers to grow 4.2 percent this year, down from a previous forecast of 7.1 percent.

“The PC market has definitely hit a slow patch,” said Loren Loverde, vice president for Worldwide Consumer Device Trackers at IDC. “Nevertheless, the long-term growth drivers – first among which are growth in emerging markets, declining prices, and growing functionality – remain intact, and the product and design innovations underway will keep PC growth healthy in the long term.”

The firm did not break down sales projections by companies.

Lenovo, the world’s No. 4 PC maker, operates its global headquarters in Morrisville, N.C. and has been growing rapidly. Based on recent sales reports, a joint venture in Japan and a pending purchase in Germany, Lenovo could soon catch No. 3 Acer, which has been struggling.

The latest projection comes after IDC’s tally showed PC sales dropped by 1.1 percent in the first quarter compared to last year.

The company says the slow economic recovery, competition from smartphones and tablets and the fact that most households in the developed world already have PCs are holding back sales.

Small laptops known as “netbooks” fueled growth in PC sales in the last few years, but IDC notes that their popularity has waned as regular laptops have grown more competitive, and tablets like the iPad have emerged.

Acer is a major player in the netbook market.

IDC still expects PC sales to grow 10 percent to 11 percent per year in 2012 to 2015.

For the IDC report, read here.

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