Information appliances will outsell PCs worldwide by 2005, but they won’t do so as replacements to PCs, according to a recent report.

Unit sales of information appliances will reach the 300 million mark worldwide over the next five years, outpacing PC sales, which will grow to 217 million units, says Egil Juliussen, president of market research firm ETForecasts, based in Buffalo Grove, Ill. About 12 million information appliances were sold in 1999, and Juliussen expects PC sales to reach 124 million in 2000.

The report defines an information appliance as an “inexpensive, easy-to-use device based on computer technology” that provides a few simple, connected functions. Juliussen breaks them down into a handful of categories, including Web appliances (WebTV), computing applications (connected personal digital assistants), communication appliances (Web phones), and entertainment appliances (set-top boxes). Everything else falls into a catch-all “other” category.

Communications appliances will lead the explosive growth with expected worldwide sales of almost 140 million units by 2005, as more people ditch their conventional cellular phones in favour of Web-enabled ones, Juliussen says.

He doesn’t expect information appliances to replace PCs anytime soon. In fact, he sees the explosive growth as an opportunity for the PC industry.

ETForecasts is at