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Gartner Cuts PC Sales Forecast, Blames Tablets

Instead of the initial forecast of 417 million PCs, Gartner now estimates 2011 unit sales to be in the 388 million range.

The primary reason is apparently a major slowdown in notebook sales. Instead of the 40% growth rates we have seen over the past few years, notebook shipments may only climb by about 10% this year, Gartner said. The reason for that slowdown, according to the market research firm, is that consumers could be delaying new notebook purchases and spend their money on media tablets instead. Gartner expects 54.8 million tablets to be sold this year, up from 19.5 million in 2010.

“We expect growing consumer enthusiasm for mobile PC alternatives, such as the iPad and other media tablets, to dramatically slow home mobile PC sales, especially in mature markets,” said George Shiffler, research director at Gartner. “We once thought that mobile PC growth would continue to be sustained by consumers buying second and third mobile PCs as personal devices. However, we now believe that consumers are not only likely to forgo additional mobile PC buys but are also likely to extend the lifetimes of the mobile PCs they retain as they adopt media tablets and other mobile PC alternatives as their primary mobile device."

There is the obvious question how this trend, if the estimate is somewhat accurate, will affect especially Intel as the company's growth heavily relied on notebook processor sales in the past. We get the sense that the company is still betting on notebook processors as a growth engine, but it is clear that the overall opportunity for increased chip shipments - which is the fundamental business approach of Intel - may be in smartphones and tablets these days.