Analyst firm Gartner has downgraded its forecasted growth in PC shipments for 2010 by 3.6 percent, thanks largely to interest in the tablet form factor which is increasingly seen as a substitute for the desktop.
PC makers should ship 352.4 million units by the end of 2010, 14.3 percent more than last year but around 11 million less than Gartner forecasted in September, the analyst group said.
"These results reflect marked reductions in expected near-term unit growth based on expectations of weaker consumer demand, due in no small part to growing user interest in media tablets such as the iPad," said Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner.
Atwal predicted that by 2014, tablets will have eaten 10 percent of the PC shipments, while fellow analyst Raphael Vasquez said that tablet and smartphone devices could soon be viewed as true substitutes to PCs.
"These devices will be increasing embraced as complements if not substitutes for PCs where voice and light data consumption are desired," he said.
Without making a comment on the substitutability of tablets for PCs, rival analyst firm iSuppli in October forecasted Apple to sell 13.9 million iPads in 2010, 43 million by 2011 and 60 million in 2012.
And while Gartner analyst Mark Margevicius last week warned of the many pitfalls of virtual desktops, Vasquez noted that they were still likely to replace some traditional desktop PCs.
"It is likely that desk-based PCs will be adversely impacted over the long-term by the adoption of hosted virtual desktops, which can readily use other devices like thin clients," Vasquez said.
Gartner cut its 2011 forecasted growth in overall PC shipments by 2.2 percent, predicting 15.9 percent growth rather than its previous estimate of 18.1 percent.