"Worldwide PC shipments totaled 84.3 million units in the first quarter of 2011, a 1.1 percent decline from the first quarter of 2010, according to preliminary results," the firm announced.
As far as the effect of tablets on PC sales is concerned, "We're investigating whether this trend is likely to have a long-term effect on the PC market," remarked Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner.
Netbooks were the last significant threat to laptops and desktops. Research firm Display Search reported in 2009 that "Consumers are expected to scoop up almost 33 million Netbooks this year, marking a sales gain of close to 100 percent from last year's 16 million," CNET reported. That rate of increase did not sustain itself, and today, netbooks are hard to find on the shelves of consumer electronics stores.
Now, analysts see tablets and smartphones as the devices that will supplant the PC. But tablets are underpowered for some uses, and smartphones have small screens and limited computing power. And PCs can now connect to 3G and 4G wireless systems, which takes away some of the advantages that tablets and smartphones might have.
PC sales could turn around and rise again -- certainly the success of the Mac line indicates that. What would be required would be for manufacturers to adapt their products to compete in a world of smaller devices -- and to lower prices. Still, each of those things is possible, so predictions of the demise of the machines are premature.