Tablets expected to clobber PC sales in 2011

Apple iPad and other tablets are already hitting global PC sales, says Gartner

Move over, PC. The Apple iPad and other tablet devices are turning quite a few heads and chipping away at your business.

Research firm Gartner Inc. today said it has cut its forecast for global PC shipments in 2011, largely because of the growing popularity of tablets, like the iPad, which are cutting into traditional PC sales.

Gartner is now projecting that 352.4 million PCs will ship this year, 14.3% more than 2009. The firm had previously projected that 2010 PC shipments would increase by 17.9%.

"These results reflect marked reductions in expected near-term unit growth based on expectations of weaker consumer demand, due in no small part to growing user interest in media tablets such as the iPad," said Ranjit Atwal, a Gartner analyst, in a statement. "Over the longer term, media tablets are expected to displace around 10% of PC units by 2014."

And while another Gartner analyst, George Shiffler, said that PCs will remain a business necessity, sales growth will continue to decline -- and not only because of competition from tablets.

With the economy still in flux, consumers and businesses remain hesitant to spend money. Weak employment gains and a "cloudy economic outlook" are keeping purse strings pulled tight, Gartner said.

And with little money to spend on computing devices, consumers and enterprises are more likely to turn to mobile alternatives like tablets or smartphones rather than traditional PCs.

"PC market growth will be impacted by devices that enable better on-the-go content consumption, such as media tablets and next-generation smartphones," said Gartner analyst Raphael Vasquez in a statement.

"These devices will be increasingly embraced as complements if not substitutes for PCs where voice and light data consumption are desired. It is likely that desk-based PCs will be adversely impacted over the long term by the adoption of hosted virtual desktops, which can readily use other devices like thin clients," he added.

Gartner's predictions follow last month's iSuppli projection that worldwide chip sales growth will slow in 2011.

According to iSuppli, lingering economic woes are expected to continue to curtail consumer and enterprise buying.

Global semiconductor revenue in 2011 should reach $317.4 billion, up a modest 5.1% from $302.0 billion projected for this year, according to iSuppli. That's a dramatic drop from a 32% uptick this year.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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