Good question. According to a latest release by Gartner, it's a question a lot of people are asking. So much so that the research behemoth is dramatically lowering its PC unit forecast for 2011 and 2012, based on expectations of weaker demand for mobile consumer PCs or notebook computers.
Worldwide PC shipments are forecast to reach 387.8 million units in 2011, which is a 10.5 percent increase from 2010, according to Gartner's preliminary forecast. The company had initially predicted a 15.9 percent growth.
Gartner expects worldwide PC shipments to total 440.6 million units in 2012, a 13.6 percent increase from 2011. In this case, its crystal ball gazing is off by 1.2%. Its previous outlook had projected a 14.8 percent growth for 2012.
Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner, said in a statement that there was a "of a general loss in consumer enthusiasm for mobile PCs." Gartner believes the lower demand is also because of what it believes is a near-term weakness expected in China (China surpassed Japan as the world's second- largest economy last year; and what China buys today affects global demand tomorrow).
Laptops and notebooks may have been a key driver of growth for the personal computer market, but with embedded Wi-Fi modules becoming increasingly cheaper, there are other access devices that can get on the Internet, driving down demands for personal computers. Quite a few of these devices (tablets, for example) offer users similar multimedia experiences as personal computers do; and are perceived to be way cooler than PCs, which are really not, especially in mature markets, and with the younger generation.
"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. "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. Overall, we now expect home mobile PCs to average less than 10 percent annual growth in mature markets from 2011 through 2015."
The professional market is expected to continue to exhibit double-digit growth in 2011 and 2012, as aging PCs are replaced across all regions of the world. "However, even in the professional market, media tablets are being considered as PC substitutes, likely at least delaying some PC replacements," said Raphael Vasquez, senior research analyst at Gartner.