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Notebooks no longer the industry's cash cow

Growth in PC sales is to slacken off, thanks to Apple and its pesky iPad.That's the opinion punted by well-heeled analyst firm Gartner anyroadmap, which has cut its PC shipment forecasts for 2011 and 2012

Big G reckons worldwide PC shipments will reach 387.8 million units in 2011. This is still a 10.5 per cent increase from 2010, but Gartner's previous projection was for 15.9 per cent growth this year. The outfit got its crystal balls crossed, obviously.

Gartner is still predicting worldwide PC shipments to total 440.6 million units in 2012 which is a 13.6 per cent up on its revised prediction for 2011 but down on its previous prediction of 14.8 per cent growth for 2012.

Whats does it all mean?

Well it means Gartner's predictions fluctuate with the wind. Much of that wind is generated by Apple these days, but it doesn't take a $75K salary to work out that if iPads are going to be shifting by the bucketload something else has to give. Laptops are the likely loser, unless those the buy the iPad realise it's no replacement for a proper PC and have enough dough in the bank to buy one of those too. Unlikely, given the mark-up a half-eaten fruity logo commands.

In a statement, Gartner research director Ranjit Atwal, talked of "a general loss in consumer enthusiasm for mobile PCs." but didn't expand on where he'd heard that from. Chardonnay talk down the wine bar is likely to be iPad focussed, we imagine.

What Garter calls "mobile PCs" (laptops/notebooks and - gasp - netbooks to you and I) "have been the dynamic growth engine of the PC market over the past five years" the outfit notes, consistently delivering growth approaching 40 per cent.

But laptops aren't the only way to get on the web these days. Smartphones easily offer a quick noodle around Facebook these days. As will that pesky pad.

"We expect growing consumer enthusiasm for mobile PC alternatives, such as the iPad and other media tablets, to dramatically slow home mobile PC sales, another Gartner research director, George Shiffler, said.

While Gartner, "once thought that mobile PC growth would continue to be sustained by consumers buying second and third mobile PCs as personal devices," Shiffler said, "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.

"Overall, we now expect home mobile PCs to average less than 10 per cent annual growth in mature markets from 2011 through 2015," Shiffler added.

Raphael Vasquez, a mere senior research analyst at Gartner, chipped in that "even in the professional market, media tablets are being considered as PC substitutes, likely at least delaying some PC replacements."

To boil it all down to the underlying message: Intel, the world's beefiest chip maker is going to have its work cut out to maintain that heady position, unless it gets a smaller, more fuel-efficient chip off its drawing board sharpish. Even then ARM's licensing model gives the likes of Samsung the edge in the mid-term.

But Gartner didn't say that. We did.