Gartner joins IDC in revising down PC sales forecast

Research firm says 2011 worldwide PC growth will be 'slightly weaker' than previous prediction

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Intel may think 2011 will be a banner year for PC sales, but research firm Gartner has revised downward its previous forecast for global PC unit growth.

On Wednesday, Gartner said it expects worldwide PC shipments "to grow 9.3 percent in 2011, reaching 385 million units. This is slightly lower than Gartner's previous projection of 10.5 percent growth for this year."

(Also see: Intel shares jump on strong Q1 earnings report)

Depends on how you define "slightly." Gartner's new number is 11.4 percent lower than its previous forecast. Whether you think that's slight is up to you.

It's certainly slight if you compare it to IDC's revised forecast, which on Monday forecast a 4.2 percent increase in PC shipments for 2011, down markedly from February's prediction of 7.1 percent. That's a 41 percent reduction.

Gartner research director Ranjit Atwal cited in a statement two factors that are putting downward pressure on PC unit shipments: "Consumer mobile PCs are no longer driving growth, because of sharply declining consumer interest in mini-notebooks" and media tablets such as the iPad "have caused consumers to delay new mobile PC purchases rather than directly replacing aging mobile PCs with media tablets."

Atwal says "direct substitution of media tablets for mobile PCs will be minimal," but it probably doesn't matter to PC manufacturers why customers aren't buying their products. Whether it's the unstable economy and money concerns still gripping consumers or a fancy new device to spend their electronics budget on, people are less likely these days to pull the trigger on a PC.

Intel, whose chips power most PCs, released blow-out first-quarter results in April and last month predicted an 11 percent increase in PC shipments this year.

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