Led by the Apple iPad, media tablets are drawing consumer interest, and dollars, away from PCs, forcing Gartner analysts to lower their projections for 2011 and 2012.
In a March 3 report, Gartner said it now expects worldwide PC shipments this year to grow 10.5 percent over 2010-instead of the 15.9 percent predicted earlier-reaching 387.8 million units in 2011, and by 13.6 percent, versus 14.8 percent, totaling 440.6 million units in 2012.
"We once thought that mobile PC growth would continue to be sustained by consumers buying second and third mobile PCs as personal devices. 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," Gartner Research Director George Shiffler said in a statement.
At fault, said Gartner, are a near-term weakness in China's mobile PC market (China is expected to account for the bulk of tablet shipments this year-41 percent, compared to just 11 percent by the United States, according to ABI Research) and the PC industry itself.
While the appeal of mobile PCs has been their portability, Gartner analysts said, "mainstream mobile PCs have not shed sufficient weight, and do not offer the all-day battery life to substantiate their promise of real mobility. These limitations have become all the more apparent with the rapid spread of social networking, which thrives on constant and immediate connections. In short, all-day untethered computing has yet to materialize, and that has exposed the -mobile' PC as merely a transportable PC at best."
While Gartner views PCs and tablets as competitors, other firms have instead begun lumping them together-a practice that leads to more happy results. Canalys, which grouped PCs and media tablets in a Jan. 26 report on the fourth quarter of 2010, found the PC market to have grown by 19.2 percent year over year, while Gartner announced a 3.1 percent growth and IDC a still more depressing 2.7 percent."Any argument that a [tablet] is not a PC is simply out of sync," Canalys analyst Daryl Chiam said in a statement on the report. "With screen sizes of 7 inches or above, ample processing power and a growing number of applications, [tablets] offer a computing experience comparable to netbooks. They compete for the same customers and will happily coexist. As with smartphones, some users will require a physical keyboard, while others will do without."Chiam added that each new product category creates a shift in market shares. Just as Acer, Asus and Samsung benefitted from the netbook market they helped create, Apple is now riding high on the success of its iPad. While Hewlett-Packard has long sat atop worldwide and U.S. PC shipment rankings, when media tablets are figured into the equation, it's Apple that takes the first chair.During the third quarter of 2010, tablet shipments reached 4.5 million units, with 93 percent market share going to Apple, ABI Research reported Feb. 23. While the industry's leading brands-among them Motorola, Samsung, Research In Motion, HP and Lenovo-will this year be working to chip away at that percentage through the introduction of their own tablets, Apple has no intentions of giving up a single percentage point without a fight.Introducing the market's newest competition at a Cupertino, Calif., event March 2, Apple CEO Steve Jobs jokingly asked if 2011 was the year of the copycats-before adding that he believes it will instead be the year of the Apple iPad 2.