Apple's iPad Will Take a Bite Out of PC Shipment Growth for 2011The folks over IT trends researcher Gartner just reduced their forecast for 2011 worldwide PC shipment growth from 18.1% to 15.9%, and they see the rise of the tablet computer as the cause. That's still very robust growth for PCs, but it's an early sign that the wild popularity of the iPad is having a real impact on the computer business as consumers begin to more broadly incorporate media tablets and use them to replace small laptops and other legacy platforms.

"These results reflect marked reductions in expected near-term growth based on expectations of weaker consumer demand, due in no small part to growing interest in media tablets such as the iPad," said Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner. Atwal expects media tablets to displace 10% of annual PC sales by 2014. Apple (AAPL) currently dominates the media tablet business with its iPad.

The Real Effect of "Virtualization"


In fact, Gartner predicts 2011 will see a profound shift for the PC market as it blurs and morphs both in terms of its primary growth centers and it primary leaders. For the first time ever, emerging markets will account for more than 50% of the global PC market in 2011, according to Gartner. Growth of PC purchases in developed nations will be far slower as consumers in those countries continue to spend more cautiously due to the impact of the risky global economy, the perceived instability of national finances and the lack of job and wage growth.

Laptops for home use will take an even bigger beating as more consumers shift previously PC-centric tasks onto media tablets and smartphones.

Looming over the horizon is still another challenge to PC growth as so-called "thin-client" platforms using virtualized computing spaces and products from Microsoft (MSFT), VMWare (VWM) and Citrix (CTXS) begin to bite into corporate PC growth in 2012. Virtualization has already had a significant impact on sales of servers because corporations have used this relatively new technique to better optimize their use of hardware, depressing demand for new purchases of servers.

Another thought to consider: As more and more of what the average PC user needs moves into the cloud, the life cycle of hardware becomes less important. The most critical performance metric for cloud-based systems is the speed of data connections, while processor speed becomes less important and hard drive space becomes trivial.

This is exactly the trend Google (GOOG) plans to capitalize on with its Chrome OS, and it's something Microsoft is also moving toward with its growing suite of software-as-a-service offerings.


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