PORTLAND, Ore. – Gartner Inc. 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.
Vendors and even market watchers such as Gartner have to date played down the impact of tablets on the notebook.
"We once thought that mobile PC growth would continue to be sustained by consumers buying second and third mobile PCs as personal devices," said Shiffler. "However, we now believe that consumers are not only likely to forgo additional mobile PC buys but are also likely to extend the lifetimes of the mobile PCs they retain as they adopt media tablets and other mobile PC alternatives as their primary mobile device," he said.
Consumers in mature markets appear to be either buying tablets instead of mobile PCs or postponing notebook purchases as they track new tablet announcements, Gartner said. Even in business PC markets—which Gartner expects to continue to see double-digit growth—some users are considering tablets instead of PCs, Gartner said.