The personal computer isn't quite as dead as some investors believe.

Yet microprocessor giant Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) warned last week that fourth-quarter revenue will come up short of expectations, at about $8.7 billion, flat with third-quarter levels.

Investors, reacting to the company's second revenue warning in two quarters, sent its shares down 11%, and the stock closed Friday at $34, near a 52-week low. The stock is down almost 22% for the year, and it's down 55% from its high of $75 13/16 reached in September. 

On the conference call Intel officials said the worldwide economy is slowing, that several customers canceled major orders in recent weeks, and that virtually all of its product lines (except chips for servers) and geographies are feeling the effects of an economic slowdown.

This is disappointing, especially since the fourth quarter is usually Intel's strongest. Part of the problem is that worldwide PC sales are slowing. Investors have been reading about this inevitable slowdown, in one form or another, for a long time, and it looks as though it might finally have arrived. Still, let's take a look at the actual growth rates to put it in perspective. 

Worldwide PC Shipment Growth* 

Year    Shipments(millions)   %Growth
1994       47.3                  --
1995       59.5                25.8%
1996       70.2                18.1% 
1997       81.4                15.9% 
1998       91.9                12.8% 
1999       113.5               23.6%  
2000       134.8               18.8%
2001(est.) 157.2               16.6%
*Source: International Data Corp. (IDC) 

What can we learn from this table? For starters, you can see that growth in the industry has been spectacular -- but not linear. It's worth remembering that growth is rarely linear when viewed this way since you're dealing with percentages and a fast-growing baseline. Pulling out one or two year's worth of growth rates doesn't necessarily give you a full picture of what's going on.