Personal computer sales hit by rise of the iPad

Sales of personal computers are falling short of expectations, as the buzz around Apple's iPad draws consumers to alternative tablet devices.

Two new reports record disappointing shipments of PCs in the final three months of last year, as retailers stocked up for the peak shopping season, and one of the industry's most closely followed research firms has cut its predictions for PC sales in 2011.

International Data Corporation, which publishes the Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker, said sales were up 2.7 per cent to 92.1 million in the quarter, below the 5.5 per cent growth expected. David Daoud, research director at IDC, said growth had steadily slowed throughout last year, as low-cost netbooks lost their allure.

"Weakening demand and competition from the iPad constrained PC shipments. Consumers are being more cautious with their purchases."

IDC had predicted a 10 per cent increase in global PC sales this year, but said that growth would no longer reach that level. The success of the iPad has prompted rivals to develop similar tablet computers, dozens of which will launch this year.

Gartner, another research firm, which also recorded lower-than-anticipated PC shipments at the end 2010, said games consoles as well as tablets were competing for consumers' attention. Mikako Kitagawa, its principal analyst said: "The bright side of the PC market during the fourth quarter was a steady growth in the professional market driven by replacement purchases. However, the PC market will face more intensified competition among consumer spending."

HP maintained the No 1 position in worldwide PC shipments in the fourth quarter of 2010, though its market share fell almost a percentage point, to 18.8 per cent. Acer had a share of 12.7 per cent, with Dell on 11.6 per cent, Gartner said.