PC sales will slow in 2011 due in part to iPad, other tablets

Market research firm Gartner on Wednesday said that growth of PC sales would slow to 9.3% in 2011 as consumers reduce spending and hold onto their PCs longer. Gartner had previously projected that PC sales would grow 10.5% this year. Beyond belt tightening, Gartner notes that the slowed PC growth is due in part to strong sales of Apple’s iPad line and other tablets. The issue is not that tablets are replacing personal computers, however, as Gartner says these media tablets have just caused consumers to delay new PC purchases. “Consumer mobile PCs are no longer driving growth, because of sharply declining consumer interest in mini-notebooks,” said Gartner research director Ranjit Atwal in a statement. “Mini-notebook shipments have noticeably contracted over the last several quarters, and this has substantially reduced overall mobile PC unit growth. Media tablets, such as the iPad, have also impacted mobile growth, but more because they have caused consumers to delay new mobile PC purchases rather than directly replacing aging mobile PCs with media tablets. We believe direct substitution of media tablets for mobile PCs will be minimal.” Gartner’s full press release follows below.

Gartner Says PC Unit Growth in 2011 will Slow to 9.3 Percent as Consumers in Mature Markets Remain Cautious

Near-Term PC Growth Reliant on Professional Replacements

STAMFORD, Conn., June 8, 2011—

Throughout much of the last decade, PC unit growth was powered by consumers. With consumers from mature markets maintaining a tight rein on their spending in response to continuing economic uncertainty, and a lack of compelling reasons for consumers in general to replace their PCs, PC unit growth has slowed and must once again rely on businesses to drive it.

“Consumer mobile PCs are no longer driving growth, because of sharply declining consumer interest in mini-notebooks. Mini-notebook shipments have noticeably contracted over the last several quarters, and this has substantially reduced overall mobile PC unit growth,” said Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner. “Media tablets, such as the iPad, have also impacted mobile growth, but more because they have caused consumers to delay new mobile PC purchases rather than directly replacing aging mobile PCs with media tablets. We believe direct substitution of media tablets for mobile PCs will be minimal.”

PCs are transitioning from a one-size-fits-all computing platform to a more-specialized device, prized for its ability to complement other devices. “The PC market is experiencing dramatic structural changes,” said Mr. Atwal.” Moving forward, PCs will no longer be a market by themselves, but part of a larger device market that ranges from smart televisions to the most-basic-feature phones. Within this market, consumers and professionals will increasingly use the combination of devices that best suits their particular needs.”

Over the next 18 months, PC growth will be supported by healthy professional replacements. “Businesses sharply reduced replacements and extended PC lifetimes in response to the recession,” said Raphael Vasquez, research analyst at Gartner. “Businesses have begun replacing aging PCs more vigorously. We expect the growing urgency for businesses to migrate away from Windows XP will drive significant professional replacements.”

Gartner has reduced expected 2011 Japanese PC unit growth to 2.4 percent in response to the March earthquake and tsunami. “Desk-based PC shipment growth has been significantly affected and business continuity plans are accelerating the shift to mobile PCs and alternate computing models,” said George Shiffler, research director at Gartner. “However, the impact of Japan’s twin disasters on worldwide PC shipment growth has been minor, and PC vendors have so far managed the threat of Japanese component disruptions.”

Additional analysis is available in the Gartner on Demand webinar “Gartner PC and Media Tablet Forecast Update, 2Q 2011.” The webinar is available at http://my.gartner.com/portal/server.pt?open=512&objID=202&mode=2&PageID=5553&resId=1635714&ref=Webinar-Calendar.

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