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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

March 3, 2011 at 10:20 AM

Tablets slam mobile PC demand, sales slowing, Gartner says

Research giant Gartner slashed its influential PC sales forecast today, saying that sales will be much slower than expected in 2011 because of growing interest in smartphones and tablet devices such as the iPad.

Gartner cut its 2011 forecast of PC sales growth to 10.5 percent, down from 15.9 percent. It’s expecting 387.8 million units to be sold.

Weakness in China’s mobile PC market is a factor, but there’s “a general loss in consumer enthusiasm for mobile PCs,” Ranjit Atwal, Gartner research director, said in a release.

Mobile PCs were key to the industry’s growth over the last five years, with average growth rates approaching 40 percent, but all sorts of devices can now be used to connect wirelessly to the Internet, it noted.

Gartner had thought mobile PC sales would continue to grow as consumers bought their second or third systems but it’s now thinking that enthusiasm for alternative devices will “dramatically slow home mobile PC sales,” George Shiffler, Gartner research director, said in the release.

Shiffler said, “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’s now expecting home mobile PC sales to grow less than 10 percent a year in mature markets from 2011 through 2015.

Some consumers are buying tablets instead of PCs. But the bigger issue is that consumers are holding off PC purchases because they’re curious about tablets and waiting to see what’s available during the rest of 2011.

Corporate sales of PCs will continue to see double-digit growth in 2011 and 2012 as older PCs are replaced around the world but even in this market, some purchases are being delayed as buyers consider whether to buy tablets instead.

Gartner said mobile PCs have lost their cachet as a fashion accessory and aren’t living up to their mobility promise.

“The current ‘cool’ device is the smartphone, and now PCs will soon have to do battle with media tablets when they are launched in large numbers in the second quarter of 2011,” the release said.

“Up to now, the appeal of mobile PCs has been their portability. But 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.”

So when is Microsoft launching that new, more mobile version of Windows?

Comments | Topics: Enterprise, Gadgets & products, iPad

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