PC forecast lowered as iPad, other tablets redefine market

Analyst firm Gartner is lowering its PC unit forecast for 2011 and 2012, based on expectations of weaker demand for mobile consumer PCs.

Worldwide PC shipments are forecast to reach 387.8 million units in 2011, a 10.5 percent increase from 2010, according to Gartner’s preliminary forecast. This is down from Gartner’s previous projection of 15.9 percent growth this year.

Gartner expects worldwide PC shipments to total 440.6 million units in 2012, a 13.6 percent increase from 2011. This is down from Gartner’s previous outlook of 14.8 percent growth for 2012.

“These results reflect marked reductions in expected near-term unit growth based on expectations of weaker consumer mobile PC demand, in no small part because of the near-term weakness expected in China’s mobile PC market, but also because of a general loss in consumer enthusiasm for mobile PCs,” said Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner.

Gartner analysts said that consumer mobile PCs have been the dynamic growth engine of the PC market over the past five years, averaging annual rates of growth approaching 40 percent. For much of this period, mobile PCs remained consumers’ platform of choice for bringing the Internet into their daily lives.

However, due to the spread of low-cost embedded Wi-Fi modules, Internet access is now available through a multitude of mobile devices that allow consumers to engage in virtually all their favorite online activities without the need of a mobile PC.

“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 George Shiffler, research director at Gartner.

“We once thought that mobile PC growth would continue to be sustained by consumers buying second and third mobile PCs as personal devices. However, we now believe that consumers are not only likely to forgo additional mobile PC buys but are also likely to extend the lifetimes of the mobile PCs they retain as they adopt media tablets and other mobile PC alternatives as their primary mobile device. Overall, we now expect home mobile PCs to average less than 10 percent annual growth in mature markets from 2011 through 2015.”

The professional market is expected to continue to exhibit double-digit growth in 2011 and 2012, as aging PCs are replaced across all regions of the world.

“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.

The dramatic rise in the popularity of alternative devices and the limitations of the PC are two of many dynamics that played a significant role in Gartner’s revised outlook for the PC industry.

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