Gartner: PC Growth Slowing Amid Shift to Phones and Tablets

Smartphones and tablets will take their toll on PC vendors in 2011, slowing growth rates as people choose lighter-weight mobile devices, according to Gartner.

The analyst firm cut its expectations for PC growth in 2011 Thursday, reducing its earlier prediction of 15.9 percent growth to just 10.5 percent growth for the year, or an estimated 388 million PC shipments. It cited increasing consumer demand for alternatives to notebook PCs such as tablets, phones, and other devices that weigh less, can last for a workday on a single battery charge, and increasingly allow users to do almost all the same things online they can do from a PC.

“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, in a press release. “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.”

More specifically, Gartner is starting to notice that consumers are taking a “wait-and-see” approach toward notebook PCs in 2011 as they evaluate whether or not new tablets–like Motorola’s Xoom and Apple’s iPad 2–are compelling enough to forgo upgrading their notebooks. This is more pronounced in mature markets such as the U.S. and Western Europe, Gartner said, and hasn’t impacted the professional PC market to quite the same degree just yet.

But that could change as tablets grow more sophisticated and cheaper to acquire, and a slew of new models are expected to arrive this year. Meanwhile, smartphone sales are still quite strong.

“Not too long ago, PCs were a “fashion accessory” in mature markets with vendors linking themselves to fashion designers and even creating PCs specifically for women. 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,” Gartner wrote in the report.