Gartner: Tablet Frenzy Cuts into PC Sales

Paul Lilly

The sky isn't falling, the world isn't about to end, and PCs aren't dying. Why, then, is market research firm Gartner bugging out? Call it an overreaction or a temporary blip as tablets settle into the marketplace (or a little of both), but according to Gartner, worldwide PC shipments totaled 84.3 million units in the first quarter of 2011, a 1.1 percent slip from the same period one year ago. Doesn't sound like much, but Gartner says the shipment results are indicative of a potential sluggishness, not just a normal seasonal dip.

You can also chalk it up to overconfidence in the market. Gartner previously predicted a 3 percent growth in the first quarter of 2011, so a 1.1 percent slide means the research firm missed the mark by 4.1 percent.

"Weak demand for consumer PCs was the biggest inhibitor of growth," said Mikako Kitagawa , principal analyst at Gartner. "Low prices for consumer PCs, which had long stimulated growth, no longer attracted buyers. Instead, consumers turned their attention to media tablets and other consumer electronics. With the launch of the iPad 2 in February, more consumers either switched to buying an alternative device, or simply held back from buying PCs. We're investigating whether this trend is likely to have a long-term effect on the PC market."

Piling on the panic, Gartner says that if it weren't for the professional segment growth, the PC market could have experienced one of the worst declines in its recent history.

Not all PC makers were affected by the decline. Both Lenovo and Toshiba bucked the trend by noting first quarter growth to the tune of 16.6 percent and 5.3 percent respectively. HP, meanwhile, performed below the worldwide average yet still maintained the No. 1 spot. No company was hit harder than Acer, however, which noted a 12.2 percent decline, though still held onto the No. 2 spot ahead of Dell.

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