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PC sales tank on fears of Meltdown, Part Deux

Gartner: 'Take two tablets and call me in 2012'

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The prognosticators at Gartner have again taken out their box cutters and sliced off the top of their worldwide PC shipment forecasts – and this time they're slashing both this year and the next.

The company's models now project that the world will consume 364 million PCs in 2011 – a 3.8 per cent increase over 2010's shipments – and then grow by 10.9 per cent to 404 million units in 2012.

That's a substantial revision of their earlier projections that PC shipments were going to grow by 9.3 per cent this year to 400 million units, then do even better in 2012, rising by a further 12.8 per cent.

Maybe Gartner was using a Magic 8 BallReply hazy, try again.

Ranjit Atwal, a Gartner research director who tracks the PC market, said in a statement that Western Europe has economic upheaval and an excess of machine inventories, and that US consumers started pulling back on PC spending in the second quarter, with back-to-school spending also low.

"An increasing pessimistic economic outlook is causing both consumer and business sentiment to deteriorate in both regions," Atwal said. "We're expecting consumer spending to tighten in response. Business spending will also tighten, but less than the consumer space."

Perhaps more ominously, Atwal says that Generation Y is not buying a PC as their main or even first device in many cases, and are falling back to smartphones or tablets. Current PCs are not compelling enough to get geezers to buy new machines, either.

Blame the media ... tablet

George Shiffler, another director who tracks the PC market at Gartner, was equally pessimistic.

"Media tablets have dramatically changed the dynamic of the PC market and HP's decision to rethink its PC strategy simply highlights the pressure that PC vendors are under to adapt to the new dynamic or abandon the market," said Shiffler. "Vendors' tried and true business models are failing as traditional PC functionality is extended to other devices, and users continue to lengthen PC lifetimes.

"Vendors only seem to be flailing as they look for quick fixes to their problems. Unfortunately, the resulting chaos is just creating more confusion across the entire PC supply chain, impacting sell-in."

It's a great time to be trying to spin out a PC business, eh, HP?

As El Reg previously reported, Foxconn, the Chinese maker of Apple's iPad fondleslabs, has said that it will ship 20 million iPad 2s in the current quarter. Motorola Xoom and RIM Playbooks together shipped under 1 million units in the second quarter of this year, a paltry showing compared to the iPad, indeed.

Every one of those tablets might have been a skinny notebook or a tiny netbook, and every tablet sold next year might have been an ultrabook. It will take a serious return to boom times before consumers and businesses feel rich enough to have a top-end smartphone, a snazzy tablet, and a costly PC all current at the same time.

As they always do in uncertain economic times, many people are deciding that their PC is good enough for now – and maybe for the next year or two, too.

PC makers should be thankful for the vast installed base of truly creaky PCs sitting out there in the dens and on the desktops of the world. Having already had their lifecycles lengthened by the Great Recession, these wheezing PCs are what keeps PC shipments growing at all in Western economies. ®

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