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Analyst: PCs are ceding ground to 'smart' devices

While the death of the PC may be slightly exaggerated, a recent report from market watcher iSuppli suggests that it may be entering its twilight years and will soon be eclipsed as users turn to non-traditional gadgets to get online.

IBM's celebration of the 30th anniversary of the IBM PC, which saw one of the designers from 'Project Chess' all those years ago claim that the PC is all but dead, received mixed reactions. While some agreed that the world is careening headlong into the post-PC era, others claimed that the PC's day is far from done and pointed to IBM's sale of its PC business to Lenovo as clouding the company's judgement a trifle.

Market watcher iSuppli, however, is coming down on IBM's side, and claims that while PC shipments will continue to grow they will be surpassed by sales of 'Internet-enabled consumer electronic devices' as soon as 2013.

The company's latest report claims that sales of non-PC Internet-enabled devices - smartphones, tablets, 'smart' TVs, and the like - will rise from 161 million units in 2010 to the staggering figure of 503.6 million units by 2013. PC sales, on the other hand, will rise from 345.4 million in 2010 to just 433.7 million in 2013.

"These new figures are the latest evidence that the Internet is not just for PCs," claimed iSuppli analyst Jordan Selburn. "The Internet now is revolutionising the consumer electronics business by delivering a range of products that can bring web-based content to homes. In the future, consumers will be more likely to access the Internet through their televisions than via their PCs," Selburn concluded.

While iSuppli's figures are merely a forecast, they represent a growing belief in the industry that the world is moving away from the traditional laptop and desktop paradigm. Sales of tablets, led by Apple's incredibly successful iPad line, have skyrocketed in recent years, and devices like the Asus Eee Pad Transformer are helping to address issues surrounding content creation - rather than consumption - on such devices.

Smartphone sales have been booming too, with high-powered devices like Samsung's Galaxy S II offering impressive compute performance in a pocket-sized gadget capable of accessing everything the Internet has to offer - including Adobe Flash content, which was once only available on a PC-like device.

From iSuppli's figures, it's clear that the PC isn't going away, but equally clear is that it is likely to become a secondary means of accessing the Internet for many in what could be the biggest change to the industry since IBM's launch of the PC.