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Gartner: Tablets To Cut into PC Growth

For the second quarter in a row, research firm Gartner Inc. has slashed its forecast for worldwide PC shipments.

In an announcement on Thursday, Gartner cited the growing popularity of tablets and other Internet-enabled consumer devices as one of the reasons for the slowdown in PC demand. While Gartner still expects total 2011 PC shipments to overtake 2010's shipments by 10.5 percent, this estimate is down from the 15.9 percent jump that the company projected last November. Gartner also lowered its forecast for next year; the company expects worldwide PC shipments in 2012 to be 13.6 percent higher than in 2011, down from its previous projection of 14.8 percent.

Based on its adjusted projections, Gartner expects worldwide PC shipments to total 387.8 million units in 2011 and 440.6 million units in 2012.

Mobile PC sales have previously been the bulwark of the overall PC market, attracting consumers even as the popularity of desktop PCs waned. For their everyday Internet and computing needs, Gartner said, notebook PCs were consumers' product of choice.

However, mobile PCs have taken a hit as the range of consumer devices with built-in Internet capabilities, particularly tablets, has grown.

"We expect growing consumer enthusiasm for mobile PC alternatives, such as the iPad and other media tablets, to dramatically slow home mobile PC sales, especially in mature markets," said Gartner research director George Shiffler in a press release. Shiffler expects consumers to keep their existing PCs for longer, and purchase tablets and other Internet-enabled alternatives as their primary mobile computing devices.

PC sales to enterprises are not insulated from tablets, either. Worldwide enterprise PC sales are expected to grow at a double-digit pace through 2012, fueled by companies' need to replace aging units. "However, even in the professional market, media tablets are being considered as PC substitutes, likely at least delaying some PC replacements," said Raphael Vasquez, senior research analyst at Gartner, in the release.

Besides the growth in tablet sales, mobile PCs have also been hampered by simply not being mobile enough, according to Gartner. Today's notebooks are not substantially lighter than earlier versions, and their limited battery life puts them at a disadvantage in the current age of all-day connectivity.

"These limitations have become all the more apparent with the rapid spread of social networking, which thrives on constant and immediate connections," Gartner said.

About the Author

Gladys Rama is the senior site producer for RCPmag.com and senior editor of AWSInsider.net.