Gartner: PC Shipments Slow Down in 2011, Long Term Outlook "Worrisome"

Paul Lilly

As PC users, we're so used to hearing sirens warn that the sky is falling we barely notice the noise anymore. Part of the reason for that is because even when things are bad, they're still pretty good. That's again the case today as market research firm Gartner lowers its PC shipments forecast for 2011, but a closer examination of the numbers shows there's reason to remain confident in the state of PCs.

According to Gartner , worldwide PC unit growth is on track to reach 352 million units by the end of the year. That represents a 3.8 percent increase over 2010, and Gartner expects things to get even better in 2012 when shipments reach 404 million units, up nearly 11 percent from Gartner's projected tally for 2011.

Sounds good, and it is, though Gartner is quick to point out that the projected growth rate for both 2011 and 2012 has been reduced from previous projections. Prior to today, Gartner expected PC shipments to grow 9.3 percent in 2011 and 12.8 percent in 2012. Now the outlook is "notably lower," according to Gartner, which blames the projected slowdown on weaker than expected demand in Western Europe and the United States. The firm also pointed to "disappointing" back-to-school PC sales in the U.S. and "an increasing pessimistic economic outlook" as reasons why PCs aren't flying off the shelves as originally projected.

Looking long term, Gartner has a few concerns.

"More worrisome for the long term is that Generation Y has an altogether different view of client devices than older generations and are not buying PCs as their first, or necessarily main, device," said Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner. "For older buyers, today's PCs are not a particularly compelling product, so they continue to extend lifetimes, as PC shops and IT departments repair rather than replace these systems."

HP's decision to try and spin off its PC business also served as fodder for Gartner's worrying ways, and so has the proliferation of tablets, which "have dramatically changed the dynamic of the PC market." Media tablets are a separate entity not included in Gartner's PC figures.

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