Worldwide PC shipments are on pace to total 368 million units in 2012, a 4.4 percent increase from 2011, according to the latest forecast by Gartner, Inc.
PC shipments are forecast to see higher growth by the end of 2013, when shipments are expected to reach more than 400 million units, the research firm said.
"PC shipments will remain weak in 2012, as the PC market plays catch up in bringing a new level of innovation that consumers want to see in devices they purchase," said Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner. "The real question is whether Windows 8 and ultrabooks will create the compelling offering that gets the earlier adopter of devices excited about PCs again."
In addition, while the economic environment and supply issues played a key part in the weaker PC market, it was a lesser concern to PC vendors compared to the far greater issue of changing consumer dynamics.
Gartner analysts said that 2011 redefined the landscape of the device market. "The use of applications such as e-mail, social networking and Internet access, that were traditionally the domain of the PC, are now being used across media tablets and smartphones, making these devices in some cases more valued and attractive propositions," said Mr. Atwal. "Consumers will now look at a task that they have to perform, and they will determine which device will allow them to perform such a task in the most effective, fun and convenient way. The device has to meet the user needs not the other way round."
Gartner expects ultrabooks will garner greater attention in the latter half of 2012, as the industry looks for this platform to reinvigorate the mobile PC form factor. "However, PCs will face more competition as we see new media tablets based on operating systems from Android and Microsoft, as well the new iPad," Mr. Atwal said.
"Moreover, we expect the shift to the personal cloud will also accelerate as consumers increasingly adopt cloud-based services as part of their digital ecosystem," Mr. Atwal said. "The evolution of the personal cloud will challenge vendors across all mobile devices markets and add to the hurdles for PC vendors to overcome to revive the PCs and differentiate them from tablets. The creation of content capabilities of PCs may not be enough to counteract the better content consumption capabilities of media tablets."
Mature PC markets will continue to be replacement market driven and their volumes will be much less than their emerging market counterparts.
"Emerging markets are key to driving worldwide PC growth in both the short and long-term, and our expectation is that 2012 and then 2013 onwards will be supported by growth in emerging markets as their share increases from just over 50 percent in 2011 to nearly 70 percent in 2016," said Mr. Atwal. "Emerging markets have very low PC penetration and even with the availability of other devices we still expect a steady uptake of PCs."