Tablets take bite of PC market says Gartner

Gartner predicts slower growth for PC shipments as tablets and other devices take market share

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Tablets take bite of PC market says Gartner Consumers are turning to iPad and other tablet devices rather than replace their PCs, says Gartner. (Getty Images)
By  Mark Sutton Published  November 30, 2010

Gartner has cut its estimates for the size of the global PC market for 2010 and 2011, as media tablets and other devices cut into PC sales.

The analyst company now predicts global PC shipments of 352.4 million in 2010, a rise of 14.3% from 2009, but down from the growth forecast of 17.9% it made in September this year.

Similarly, 2011 forecasts show shipments to reach 409 million, up 15.9% on 2010, but less than the 18.1% growth earlier predicted.

Gartner said that the predictions directly reflect growing consumer interest in tablet and smartphone devices as the primary computing device. While the industry is not yet at an inflexion point, the growth of mobile devices is seeing a longer cycle of replacement and extended PC lifetimes, and more factors coming together to disrupt the sector.

“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, research director at Gartner. “Over the longer term, media tablets are expected to displace around 10 percent of PC units by 2014.”

“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 Raphael Vasquez, research analyst at Gartner. “These devices will be increasing 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.”

Gartner also highlighted five additional factors that are likely to weaken the PC segment, including the growth of emerging markets, and the likelihood of that consumers in emerging markets will leapfrog PCs and go straight to alternate devices; less consumer spending power leading to more discerning choice of new device, in favour of emerging devices over PC; improving capabilities of tablet devices that are attracting consumer preference; the extension of PC lifecycles as more activities are spread out to complementary devices, meaning less need to replace PCs as often; and the uptake of thin client Hosted Virtual Desktops (HVDs), that are expected to start impacting on PC desktops from 2012.

 “PCs are still seen as necessities, but the PC industry's inability to significantly innovate and its overreliance on a business model predicated on driving volume through price declines are finally impacting the industry's ability to induce new replacement cycles,” said George Shiffler, research director at Gartner. “As the PC market slows, vendors that differentiate themselves through services and technology innovation rather than unit volume and price will dictate the future. Even then, leading vendors will be challenged to keep PCs from losing the device ‘limelight’ to more innovative products that offer better dedicated compute capabilities.”

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