Tuesday, July 19, 2011 at 10:42 am.

The fastest-growing segment of the PC market: Chinese piracy boxes

The tablet market, led by Apple’s iPad, is expected to more than triple this year to 70 million units, and then double again next year, according to the latest market forecast issued by Jefferies, the investment bank.

But if you look at just PCs — notebooks and desktops — the fastest-growing segment is less obvious: “Non-branded PCs,” which Jefferies describes as “primarily desktops in China that run pirated software.” Some 100 million of these computers could ship in 2013, up from 27.5 million last year, Jefferies estimates.

These half-legit computers still need chips, so they’re potential growth drivers for the likes of Intel and AMD. But this market is little use to Microsoft, unless it can figure out how to make money from PCs running “free” copies of Windows and Office.