Analyst firm Gartner says the latest PC sales figures back up its view that consumers are buying tablets instead of replacing older PCs. It said global PC shipments declined 4.9% in the fourth quarter of 2012, while in EMEA shipments declined even faster - 9.6%.
Saying that the latest stats point to a trend that cannot only be explained by the weak economy, Gartner principal analyst Mikako Kitagawa said, "Tablets have dramatically changed the device landscape for PCs, not so much by 'cannibalizing' PC sales, but by causing PC users to shift consumption to tablets rather than replacing older PCs.
"Whereas as once we imagined a world in which individual users would have both a PC and a tablet as personal devices, we increasingly suspect that most individuals will shift consumption activity to a personal tablet, and perform creative and administrative tasks on a shared PC. There will be some individuals who retain both, but we believe they will be exception and not the norm. Therefore, we hypothesize that buyers will not replace secondary PCs in the household, instead allowing them to age out and shifting consumption to a tablet."
The analyst said this latest shift has been driven by the availability of compelling low-cost tablets, and the fact that consumers increasingly see tablets as more than capable of replacing older PCs as a primary 'consumption device' - one used primarily to surf the web, watch movies, play games and so on. Those consumers who still buy new PCs to replace their older machines are likely to be 'power users' - needing the highest performance possible for rich and CPU-intensive applications, that tablets are less likely to handle well.
Kitagawa also said she believes the switch towards tablets may mean that those who do still need the higher power of high-end PCs may result in the average selling price of PCs actually going up. "On the positive side for vendors, the disenfranchised PCs are those with lighter configurations, which mean that we should see an increase in PC average selling prices (ASPs) as users replace machines used for richer applications, rather than for consumption."