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In a post-PC world, Gartner sees PC growth accelerating in 2012

Zach Epstein
March 8th, 2012 at 10:00 AM

Apple on Wednesday unveiled its new iPad, a sleek slate with a stunning 2,048 x 1,536-pixel Retina Display, a speedy Apple A5X processor and embedded 4G LTE. The Cupertino, California-based company repeatedly tossed around its “post-PC” buzzword — Apple’s post-PC devices accounted for 76% of its revenue in the fourth quarter last year — and there is no question that the new iPad will be a hit. Does it spell the end for PCs, however? Not according to market research firm Gartner. Read on for more.

In 2011, the PC market was flat according to Gartner. Shipments totaled 350 million units last year, just as they did in 2010. Despite increased pressure from Apple’s new iPad and a continued flurry of Android tablets due to hit the market in 2012, Gartner sees the PC market picking up this year, with shipments growing 4.4% to 368 million units. The firm’s projected growth is hardly impressive compared to the 13.8% the PC industry grew in 2010, but it does point to a rebound.

“PC shipments will remain weak in 2012, as the PC market plays catch up in  bringing a new level of innovation that consumers want to see in devices they purchase,” Gartner analyst Ranjit Atwal said in a statement. “The real question is whether Windows 8 and ultrabooks will create the compelling offering that gets the earlier adopter of devices excited about PCs again.”

Atwal does suggest that media tablets like the iPad could begin to have a direct impact on PC sales moving forward, which is a notion many industry watchers had rejected until recently. “Consumers will now look at a task that they have to perform, and they will determine which device will allow them to perform such a task in the most effective, fun and convenient way,” the analyst said. “The device has to meet the user needs not the other way round.” Gartner’s full press release follows below.

Gartner Says PC Shipments Will Grow 4.4 Percent in 2012

PC Market to Exhibit Higher Growth by End of 2013

STAMFORD, Conn., March 8, 2012— Worldwide PC shipments are on pace to total 368 million units in 2012, a 4.4 percent increase from 2011, according to the latest forecast by Gartner, Inc. PC shipments are forecast to see higher growth by the end of 2013, when shipments are expected to reach more than 400 million units.

“PC shipments will remain weak in 2012, as the PC market plays catch up in  bringing a new level of innovation that consumers want to see in devices they purchase,” saidRanjit Atwal, research director at Gartner. “The real question is whether Windows 8 and ultrabooks will create the compelling offering that gets the earlier adopter of devices excited about PCs again.”

In addition, while the economic environment and supply issues played a key part in the weaker PC market, it was a lesser concern to PC vendors compared to the far greater issue of changing consumer dynamics.

Gartner analysts said that 2011 redefined the landscape of the device market. “The use of applications such as e-mail, social networking and Internet access, that were traditionally the domain of the PC, are now being used across media tablets and smartphones, making these devices in some cases more valued and attractive propositions,” said Mr. Atwal. “Consumers will now look at a task that they have to perform, and they will determine which device will allow them to perform such a task in the most effective, fun and convenient way. The device has to meet the user needs not the other way round.”

Gartner expects ultrabooks will garner greater attention in the latter half of 2012, as the industry looks for this platform to reinvigorate the mobile PC form factor. “However, PCs will face more  competition as we see new media tablets based on operating systems from Android and Microsoft, as well the new iPad,” Mr. Atwal said.

“Moreover, we expect the shift to the personal cloud will also accelerate as consumers increasingly adopt cloud-based services as part of their digital ecosystem,” Mr. Atwal said. “The evolution of the personal cloud will challenge vendors across all mobile devices markets and add to the hurdles for PC vendors to overcome to revive the PCs and differentiate them from tablets. The creation of content capabilities of PCs may not be enough to counteract the better content consumption capabilities of media tablets.”

Mature PC markets will continue to be replacement market driven and their volumes will be much less than their emerging market counterparts.

“Emerging markets are key to driving worldwide PC growth in both the short and long-term, and our expectation is that 2012 and then 2013 onwards will be supported by growth in emerging markets as their share increases from just over 50 percent in 2011 to nearly 70 percent in 2016,” said Mr. Atwal. “Emerging markets have very low PC penetration and even with the availability of other devices we still expect a steady uptake of PCs.”

Additional analysis is available in the Gartner on Demand webinar “Gartner PC and Media Tablet Forecast Update, 1Q 2012.” The webinar is available at http://my.gartner.com/portal/server.pt?open=512&objID=202&mode=2&PageID=5553&resId=1921116&ref=Webinar-Calendar.

Zach Epstein

Zach Epstein has worked in and around ICT for more than 15 years, first in marketing and business development with two private telcos, then as a writer and editor covering business news, consumer electronics and telecommunications. Zach’s work has been quoted by countless top news publications in the US and around the world. He was also recently named one of the world's top-10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes, as well as one of Inc. Magazine's top-30 Internet of Things experts.




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