Gartner: Consumers Have Stopped Buying PCs Even As Apple ‘Demotes’ Them With iCloud

Gartner: Consumers Have Stopped Buying PCs Even As Apple ‘Demotes’ Them With iCloud

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Just days after Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced his iCloud service will ‘demote’ PCs to just another device, we are seeing confirmation from high-profile tech analysts. Thanks to the iPad and iPhone, the day of the PC is becoming dusk.

The first sign of the shift away from consumer PCs is analysts at Gartner Tuesday trimmed estimates for worldwide PC shipments in 2011 to 9.3 percent growth, or 385 million units. That is down from the analyst firm’s previously projected 10.5 percent growth. The key to the slippage: consumers are walking away from the market, and mobile PCs – once the only bright spot in computer sales – have fallen off a cliff.

“Consumer mobile PCs are no longer driving growth, because of sharply declining consumer interest in mini-notebooks,” said Ranjit Atwal, a Gartner research director. As a result, “this has substantially reduced overall PC unit growth.” The iPad has also hurt mobile PC sales “because they caused consumers to delay new mobile PC purchases,” Atwal added.

Fitting into the Post-PC era mantra heard at the recent WWDC, Gartner sees PCs “transitioning from a one-size-fits-all computing platform to a more specialized device. prized for its ability to complement other devices.” Moreover, PCs will take on more of a supporting role to other electronics, integrating into devices such as smart televisions or becoming part of basic mobile phones.

So, if consumers are flooding out of the PC market (both desktop and mobile), who’s left to turn the lights out? Business customers, according to Gartner. Stuck with aging Windows XP-based PCs because of the poor economys. If that isn’t the last gasp of the PC industry, I’m not sure what is.

What about you? Has iPad and iCloud made you rethink your next PC purchase?

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  • Karras

    This is just a thought but is it possible that one major reason PC sales are in decline is because just about everybody has one? Unless there is a compelling reason to upgrade, it seems a better idea to buy alternative products instead. I think the iPad is a great product but I also believe it gets a bit too much credit for damaging the PC industry. Was flooding the market with cheap PCs ever a sustainable way of doing things, especially as technology improved so that baseline models can handle many people’s needs?

  • DrM47145

    “What about you? Has iPad and iCloud made you rethink your next PC purchase?”
    Absolutely. The PostPC era will officially arrive with iOS5/iCloud.

    My parents (as millions of other’s) own a PC to do basic stuff: e-mail, surf the web and Skype with their grandchildren. And of course, they battle with the good old Windows-PC issues. 
    During the last year or so, I’ve been thinking on buying them an iPad, but it had no webcam, and it required a PC, so that was a dead end… no reason for them to have two devices.
    Now the tide is changing, with iOS5′s Free-PC Sync and iCloud, I can finally get to hammer the last PC in my family and give them an iPad2. Moreover, with Mirror AirPlay and Apple TV, they can do all they need to do in a much safer and stable sandboxed OS and on a big screen TV.

    Say ciao to desktops and laptops, millions of people will not need them anymore.

    Thanks Apple for making it easy to leap into the PostPC era.

  • DrM47145

    I don’t think so. 

    Keep in mind that for decades the same people who already had a PC where the ones buying new ones. The consistent inflation in hardware minimum requirements imposed by more complex software has been making hardware obsolete year after year. So I don’t think the market had reached a plateau, I really think consumers have matured enough to be realistic with what they need and sincere with what they want from a computer. And truth to be told, they also got tired of Windows OS’s amazing ability to self-destroy with time.A more stable and ubiquitous way of computing is an absolute need for today’s standards, and as a consequence, it is dooming the long standing paradigm PCs-as-we-knew-them were proposing. Now the tandem iOS5/PC-Free has unleashed iOS devices from its umbilical cords to PCs, and the tandem AirPlay Mirroring/AppleTV has wiped away one of the last iPad drawbacks, the size of its screen.From now on it’s only a matter of time until we all accept the PostPC era is unavoidable, and it will be a reality whenever iOS5 is released. Apple has once again done it right.

  • osxcloner

    Goodnight PC (windows.) Hello Mac. Hello iPad iOS. Goodnight Android Tabs. No sell Thru…Android Bubble.

  • Jdsonice

    I have owned an iMac and a PC for several years. 

    The only thing I use my PC for is to access websites that require the use of IE (yes there are a few dinosaurs out there) and to play Solitaire. I could replace that PC with VMWare Fusion or a similar product but that means extra expense while my PC is “free” at least now. I don’t see myself ever purchasing a PC (i.e. a Windows device) again in my life. In a few years, the need should disappear completely as the dinosaurs move to standards based web. The next item will be iPadN. So with an i(Mac,phone,pad) and a really ancient PC I will be done. As time goes by I expect to loose the iMac and a merger of i(phone,pad) moving to a single device that I can carry with me. That is when I hope to loose my broadband internet connection too.

    I also expect M$ to disappear in the same timeframe (OK, I can dream can I not !!!!!)

  • Karras

    But then the iPad itself is evidence that many people do not need a computing powerhouse for a lot of the stuff they would normally do on one. I would not go so far as to say that technology has reached a plateau and many people will always find reasons and/or excuses to upgrade. But for web browsing, emailing, document editing, media playback, etc, low end PCs meet these needs. Even things like video editing are doable if you have a little patience (or maybe a lot in some cases). In my line of work it used to be a rare thing to see PCs of more than about 3 years old but now I often encounter those that are 5-7 years old. Granted my perspective is limited to personal experience but it certainly does lead me to believe people are keeping computers for longer. My own pattern of upgrading as become less frequent as well and I do manage to get many of the latest games running to my satisfaction, on a somewhat aging rig.

    Also, the other major point that springs to mind is that iOS5, iCloud and cutting the cord have only just been announced, only appearing later in the year. I very much doubt that many PC users are even aware of it, even if they understand the implications.

    Just fort the sake of balance though, I am not for a second suggesting that these things are irrelevant to the future of computer products. It seems clear they are not. But to suggest that they are already having such an impact. To even suggest that tablet PCs in general are the executioners of the PC industry as we know it. This strikes me as a little absurd.

  • quietstorms

    I’m reminded of an article that Cringely wrote yesterday which I believe is accurate:

    iCloud’s real purpose: kill Windows
    http://www.cringely.com/2011/0

    The PC is better at tasks that 90% of users don’t need or aren’t interested in(audio/video professionals, mathematics, programming etc). The iPad is better than PC at tasks that 90% of users want (reading books/magazines, low-level audio/ video editing, compose documents, long-lasting battery, no malware, instant on, user-friendly, etc).We’re moving to a mobile world where the computer is the cloud and the device is just an appliance.

  • Glenn Gibson

    OK, so Mac has the iCloud, this is not a new invention just another example of healthy competition between the markets.  Apple is not going to drive Windows to the periphery of the computing world due to these “brand-new” features.  For one Microsoft already holds large market share (esp. in business) and secondly, they are not going to stand by and watch.  

    There is room in the global market place for more than one operating system, if there was only one, there would be no incentive for programmers to innovate.  Thank-you Steve Jobs and Apple for adopting many features into the iOS5 that are in existence elsewhere, for supporting the work by your competing companies (imitation is the greatest form of flattery), and finally for encouraging programmers everywhere to strive to improve for their piece of the global marketplace.  

  • Dalek

    Both of my parents have MacBooks, and my mom recently upgraded hers (after having her first one about five years).  I showed my dad my iPad 1, and he instantly thought it was what they should have gotten instead of a second laptop.  He’s right, too.

  • SteveJ

    I’ve read through this thread in entirety. It is a very interesting topic. I’m sure it will be some time, if ever, that the PC truly dies but it is quite evident that times are a changing.

    My current setup includes an Air, 27″ Apple Cinema Display, iPad 2 and iPhone 4. I also have a 5 year old PC running Windows 7 but I’ll get to that later. In terms of my Mac setup, the vast majority of the time I find myself using the iPad or iPhone. About the only time I use the Air is when I’m at my desk doing stuff like writing up bids or accounts receivable and payable. I do so because the 27″ monitor is easier on my over-40 eyes and I rely on a hierarchical file structure, which the Finder offers, for organizational reasons. There are times when I upload a file or two to DropBox and work with them on the iPad but I may as well use the Air sans the monitor if this is the case. This brings me to an important point: IMO the PC (I use the term in the generic sense) will continue to live on until devices like the iPad offer the same type of hierarchical file structure.

    …now about that 5 year old PC. I am an avid gamer and use to do so exclusively on the PC but after years of kicking and screaming, I bought a PS3. The transition was a bit traumatic but I’ll never go
    back. So, when my Windows based PC dies, it will not be replaced. I relate this because I’m confident there are *many* gamers who have done the exact same thing. Mind you, we gamers were the ones dropping top dollar on high-end graphics cards and faster processors simply to eek out a few more frames per second. I’d venture to say that between buying new Windows based computers and items like graphics cards I spent about $100+/month; and I don’t think that was unusual.

    So…is the PC dying? Let the debate continue…

  • aquraishi

    Glenn, perhaps you’re not familiar with Apple’s MO. They didn’t invent the PC or the mp3 player or the smartphone. They have just done it better than anyone else.

    The PC universe consists of people comparing features, CPU, ram, camera sensor pixel density…etc. Apple, outside of the PC universe, does things differently. They are all about design and usability. If you’ve made a couple of Apple products your primary device you will know what I mean. If not, you’ll think about features, CPU, ram…

    I’m man electrical engineer so sure, I get all that stuff on a deep level. But you know what else I am? An end-user – and as one I want technology to be intuitive and work for me, not the other way around.

    That’s why Apple will dominate technology emotionally. W love things that make our lives truly better.

    iCloud is exactly the same. It will make living without a PC and living with multiple devices effortless.

  • Arnold

    iCloud is good. iWork on iPad is great! But! What is the real use for all of this if I can print using AirPrint only to a small number of HP printers? I hope new AirPort products will change that. Then, really, a full cycle can be maintained. Create. Share. Print (deliver).

  • DrM47145

    True. It is imprudent (to say the least) that tablets are the smoking gun here. Assuming as a fact that A caused B is a fallacy. 

    As for encountering with those 5-7 years old computers, I think part of it is due to Windows XP being there for so long, and for Vista being not good enough reason for users to switch, hence, needing more hardware power. 

    it is also true that very few people actually see this as imminently happening, but soon they will, as millions have already adopted a device that now occupies a niche that didn’t exist, and that has become the most important and fastest growing market the technology industry has seen in decades (not to say ever). On the day the iPad1 was launched, the world (not people like us, following these sites) was not even aware of it, and of course they didn’t even know how much they needed it, or how much better computer experience it would offer them. Today, the world seems to agree that the convenience, the ease of use, and the OS’s stability and responsiveness of the iPad has proven that tablets are here to stay, and for some time. That’s why I do believe the PostPC era has just been reinforced with iOS5/iCloud/AirPlay.

  • DrM47145

    The only reason for why Microsoft still holds a large market in businesses is because IT people are dinosaurs that only speak Windows. Besides, those who own a Mac can tell that the headcounts on IT departments would be dramatically reduced if they’d all use Macs.

  • Glenn Gibson

    I see I forgot to mention, I do work with PC (work and home)and Mac OS (work) and I have even experimented with Linux (which can also be awesome in its own way). I understand the MO of Apple and I own an Ipod, although I gave it up to the kids for a toy when I purchased my Android phone.  

    I realize Mac is all about the end user experience (as is the goal of most companies), but as the title of this blog implies, I disagree with those who choose to follow a single system.  That means they have got you, hook, line an sinker, and you will line up like sheep to purchase their next product when the hype created by their marketing companies advertises a new tweak.

    Whatever you choose, just ensure it is for the right reasons, to suit your needs, not to go into debt to a company who spends what they do on marketing.  Explore your options.  

    BTW – Followed a tweet here, won’t be staying, but thanks for the debate.

  • bizsumpark182

    My career kinda relies heavily on using PCs. I have a iMac that I work/game on at home. I have a Macbook Air that I use when I’m not in my office or I’m out and about. And then at work I use a Windows based notebook (because I don’t have a choice). The only other device I have is my iPhone 4.

    Earlier this year I bounced between buying an iPad 2 or the Macbook Air and realized that I want a true computer to use over a tablet. Tablets just aren’t for me, at least not yet. Sure that may change in a few years, but not anytime soon.

    I do see basic consumers dropping PCs for tablets though.

  • cheesy11

    its the end of the world as we know it, time to live on clouds and throw out the windows

  • Alan Wilson

    I disagreed with what you said-apple is apple and there is know system or product that you can use to compare it. There is time for everything, in the past 70′s all what everyone know is micro-soft which is ruling the system. Everyone have his or her own choice in terms of Gadgets, especially me i can’t live without apple, because they deal with quality not the quantity. But God grace apple is doing their best for the world so it make the race tight for  others, especially micro-soft, android, and so forth. Thank you.

  • Beast_m

    most people got PC’s to log on the internet nothing more nothing less
    now that ipad’s and iphone allows you to view websites, watch videos, play games, and socialize there is very little need for a laptop of a desktop for most people.

    it used to be that almost every member of the household would own a pc or notebook. Now it is enough to have 1 desktop for the whole family to use when ur ipad is not sufficient say to burn a cd once in a while., or run a pc dedicated game.

    otherwise everything can be done on an ipad even typing and printing an essay or a research paper!

    pc’s will be devices for the professionals working on 3D graphics, photoshop, programming, and so on.

  • Aufdenschlips

    so you´re arguing that you dislike to be dependant on one company and buying it´s products turns you into a mindless mush

    i can only shake my head to the whole “apple customers are sheep” faction, just cause you lack proper arguments and dislike the elegant problem solving approach of apple and it´s products you become what you accuse others of

    “i hate apple products, so i have to buy android just to show them”

    geez, man, u really think apple cares? or it´s customers?

    their customer is every person who just wants to USE a product

    and IT JUST WORKS – not to mantain it

    i have 20+ years experience on dos/win-based systems as a consultant/trouble shoouter – it´s a scam

    you don´t ever get a product that is near a state where it can be operated without a steep learning curve concerning topics no end-user should be forced to know about

    even with windows 7 the most economical approach to problem solving is a fresh install

    last december i bought a mac book air just because i want to use my computer to do stuff without it interfering and needing maintenance

    it has great battery life, best looks – yes, indeed, for me that counts as well, is sturdier than any other laptop i ever owned – and i do shop $1K+

    and it´s SLIM

    just don´t start with all other ALMOST as good wannabees one revision and more later, e.g. Samsung 9

    if u don´t LIKE apple products, it really is OK

    just dont pretend it´s for mostly rational and logical reason

    if i buy something, i want the best value for my money

    at the moment that is apple without any close second

    if that changes i will shop elsewhere

About the author

Ed SutherlandEd Sutherland is a veteran technology journalist who first heard of Apple when they grew on trees, Yahoo was run out of a Stanford dorm and Google was an unknown upstart. Since then, Sutherland has covered the whole technology landscape, concentrating on tracking the trends and figuring out the finances of large (and small) technology companies.

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