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Analyst: Users Won't Have a Tablet and a PC

As PC sales continue to decline, some analysts are revising their working hypothesis for how tablets will affect the PC market.

Earlier this week, Gartner released preliminary results for worldwide PC sales in the fourth quarter. The results were bracing for the PC industry. Overall shipments were down 5 percent to 90 million units.

Dell, reportedly on the auction block to go private, fared worst with a 21 percent decline compared to the prior-year quarter, followed by Acer Group's 11 percent drop. Lenovo did best with an 8 percent increase in shipments. ASUS saw shipments increase 6 percent, while HP held steady.

Principal analyst at Gartner Mikako Kitagawa sees more than a weak economy at play.

"Tablets have dramatically changed the device landscape for PCs, not so much by 'cannibalizing' PC sales, but by causing PC users to shift consumption to tablets rather than replacing older PCs," Kitagawa said in a statement.

Speaking for Gartner, Kitagawa explained how the firm's framework for thinking about tablets is changing.

"Whereas as once we imagined a world in which individual users would have both a PC and a tablet as personal devices, we increasingly suspect that most individuals will shift consumption to a personal tablet, and perform creative and administrative tasks on a shared PC," Kitagawa said.

That's leading Gartner to hypothesize that buyers won't replace secondary PCs in their households. While that's an overall negative for PC shipment volume, it could lead to higher average selling prices to support richer applications, according to the Stamford, Conn.-based market research firm.

Of course, other factors are at play. Gartner also pointed out that for the Windows 8 launch, PC vendors offered products that were too expensive and "somewhat lackluster form factors in their Windows 8 offerings and missed the excitement of touch." It's worth noting that Lenovo, which did come out with exciting form factors and jumped on touch, had the best quarter.

None of this is settled. But this "shared PC for production and tablets for consumption" hypothesis will be an interesting one to consider as the numbers roll in from future quarters.

Posted by Scott Bekker on January 18, 2013 at 11:58 AM


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