Gartner lowers PC shipment growth forecast for 2011

Tablets will hurt PC shipments, the researcher says, as it drops its forecast to 15.9 percent from 18.1 percent

Gartner on Monday lowered its PC shipment forecast for 2011 because of weak demand, spurred in part by users opting for other devices such as tablets and smartphones.

The market research firm now projects worldwide PC shipments of 409 million units next year, a 15.9 percent increase compared to estimated PC shipments this year, which Gartner also revised. Gartner had earlier projected 18.1 percent growth for 2011. Gartner lowered its projection for worldwide PC shipments this year to 352.4 million units, a 14.3 percent increase from last year. Gartner previously projected shipments to grow by 17.9 percent.

The emergence of new devices such as tablets and the weak economic outlook contributed to Gartner's decision to revise its forecasts.

There is a growing interest in tablets like Apple's iPad, which could hurt the near-term growth of PC shipments, said Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner, in a statement.

Tablets could displace around 10 percent of PC units by 2014, Atwal said. For now, Gartner does not account for tablet shipments under PC shipment numbers.

Tablets can be used instead of PCs to watch media and communicate as well as for virtual desktops or thin clients, said Raphael Vasquez, research analyst at Gartner. But in the long-term these devices will "complement" PCs, which remain a better alternative for intense computing activities.

Apple's iPad started shipping in April and became an instant hit, with the company saying it sold more than 7 million iPads by the end of September. A wave of tablets with Google's Android OS from companies such as Samsung and Toshiba are now becoming available.

Gartner also lowered its PC shipment forecast because of a weak economic outlook, Gartner said. Emerging markets will continue to drive growth, but PC purchases are being postponed in mature markets such as the U.S. and western Europe because of economic uncertainty. People have less money to spend, and slow income growth and slow recovery in employment could affect PC shipments, Gartner said.

The emergence of devices such as the tablet and smartphones could also delay PC upgrade cycles, Gartner said. Work traditionally done on a PC could be distributed over a variety of devices, which could extend the life of PCs and in turn affect PC shipments, the research firm said.

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