November 29, 2010

Although worldwide PC shipments in 2010 will still surpass shipments in 2009, the increase won't be as much as initially expected, reports IT research and advisory company Gartner. The culprit for lowered PC sales expectations? Mobile devices, namely media tablets such as Apple's iPad.

"PC market growth will be impacted by devices that enable better on-the-go content consumption such as media tablets and next-generation smartphones," said Raphael Vasquez, research analyst at Gartner. "These devices will be increasing embraced as complements if not substitutes for PCs where voice and light data consumption are desired. It is likely that desk-based PCs will be adversely impacted over the long-term by the adoption of hosted virtual desktops, which can readily use other devices like thin clients."

Gartner expects PC shipments to reach 352.4 million units globally this year, an increase of 14.3 percent from 2009. Gartner previously expected growth in the range of 17.9 percent for 2010. Further, the company lowered its worldwide PC shipments forecast for 2011 from 18.1 percent growth to 15.9 percent, or a grand total of 409 million units.

"These results reflect marked reductions in expected near-term unit growth based on expectations of weaker consumer demand, due in no small part to growing user interest in media tablets such as the iPad," said Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner. "Over the longer term, media tablets are expected to displace around 10 percent of PC units by 2014."

Along with more consumers looking at smartphones and media tablets as viable computing devices, the economy is also dampening overall PC sales. Gartner also sees the PC arena as a generally stagnant market in terms of innovation.

"PCs are still seen as necessities, but the PC industry's inability to significantly innovate and its overreliance on a business model predicated on driving volume through price declines are finally impacting the industry's ability to induce new replacement cycles," said George Shiffler, research director at Gartner. "As the PC market slows, vendors that differentiate themselves through services and technology innovation rather than unit volume and price will dictate the future. Even then, leading vendors will be challenged to keep PCs from losing the device ‘limelight’ to more innovative products that offer better dedicated compute capabilities."