PC shipments fell year-on-year during an unexpectedly weak first quarter, in a sign tablets are starting to carve a chunk out of the market, figures from two leading research firms show.
Gartner estimates shipments fell 1.1% year-on-year - the first decline since mid-2009 -, while IDC said shipments were down 3.2% during the quarter due to a multitude of factors including disruption to the Japanese supply chain and saturation.
Mikako Kitagawa, a principal analyst at Gartner, said low prices for consumer PCs failed to attract buyers during 1Q11. The firm originally expected sales to grow 3% on the back of the price cuts, but found that consumers turned to media tablets and other consumer electronics instead.
“With the launch of the iPad 2 in February, more consumers either switched to buying an alternative device, or simply held back from buying PCs,” Kitagawa notes.
IDC broadly concurs with the reasons for the sales fall, noting that consumers are losing interest in PCs while business users remain cautious about buying new machines.
Senior analyst Jay Chou predicts the market will remain tough for PC makers in the near-term, due to unrest in the Middle East and Japan’s recovery from a devastating earthquake and tsunami last month.
In the long term, “success will depend on hardware manufacturers being able to articulate a message that is beyond simple hardware specifications,” he notes. “’Good enough computing’ has become a firm reality, exemplified first by mini notebooks and now media tablets.”
IDC vice president Bob O’Donnell predicts the market will begin to pick up in the back half of the year, as PC makers “work through a difficult period.”