Gartner: Tablets eat into 2011 PC sales

March 07, 2011 // By Rick Merritt
Gartner has lowered its forecast for 2011 PC sales more than five percent citing a shift of consumer enthusiasm from mobile PCs to devices such as tablets.

For years, analysts have forecast the coming of a post-PC era where many kinds of devices will be used to access the Internet. The revised Garner forecast is the latest sign that era is at hand.

In another sign of the rising importance of tablets, Intel has put Doug Davis in charge of a new business group focused on tablets and netbooks. Davis, seen by some as a possible successor to chief executive Paul Otellini, previously ran Intel's embedded group. Otellini vowed last year Intel would stake out a significant position in tablets.

Steve Jobs referred to Apple's iPads as "post-PC devices" in the launch this week of the iPad 2. It is based on an Apple A5 processor using two ARM cores rather than an Intel x86 chip. IHS iSuppli noted Apple sold in 2010 nearly four times more ARM- than x86-based systems.

In a new report, Gartner currently forecasts 2011 PC growth at 10.5 percent down from 15.9 percent previously. Worldwide PC shipments will hit 440.6 million units in 2012, a 13.6 percent increase from 2011, down from Gartner's previous outlook of 14.8 percent growth, the market watcher added.

"These results reflect 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, speaking in a press release.

Notebooks and netbooks had average annual rates of growth approaching 40 percent over the last five years. That's now expected to decline to about 10 percent through 2015 as consumers increasingly get Internet access—the killer mobile app—through a variety of mobile devices, Gartner said.

"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.