Gartner Lowers Predictions for 2011 and 2012 PC Shipments

The PC market is enduring a period of transition, and all of the changes, shifts in attitudes, and emergence of tablets and smartphones is making it tough to predict the market. Research firm Gartner has adjusted its predictions for PC shipments for the rest of 2011 and 2012 downward. Again.

Previously, Gartner predicted 9.3 percent growth for 2011 and 12.8 percent growth for 2012. Today, the firm lowered those predictions to a 3.8 percent increase (364 million units) and 10.9 percent (404 million units), respectively.

The ugly drop predicted for the second half of 2011 is due to excess inventory and economic problems in Western Europe as well as the U.S.’s still-struggling economy. Expectations for 2012’s numbers, which currently haven’t been lowered as dramatically (yet?), will be affected by 2011’s woes.

The stunning announcement that HP, the world’s largest PC maker, may spin off its PC business and the growing intrusion of tablets are affecting the PC market. In fact, it’s reasonable to assume that the two are related. Maybe HP is on to something.

"More worrisome for the long term is that Generation Y has an altogether different view of client devices than older generations and are not buying PCs as their first, or necessarily main, device," said Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner, in the press release. "For older buyers, today's PCs are not a particularly compelling product, so they continue to extend lifetimes, as PC shops and IT departments repair rather than replace these systems."

That’s what we would call a double whammy--kids today don’t see PCs as important, and old fuddy-duddies don’t see the value in upgrading.

Really, though, it makes sense; the hardware requirements for a notebook that can do the vast majority of computing tasks aren’t especially robust. In most cases, a two-, three, or even four-year-old notebook can handle it all just fine, and adding services such as cloud storage is a great way to add functionality and longevity to a notebook with decent specs.

Further, many younger consumers and business types find that a smartphone or tablet meets the majority of their day-to-day computing needs, such as email, Web browsing, social media, phone calls, audio and video streaming, and even video conferencing.

The PC isn’t going away any time soon. After all, Gartner merely lowered its predicted growth rate; it didn’t indicate a shrinking market. However, the findings are noteworthy and indicate that the PC landscape is changing.