Gartner Blames iPad for Lower PC Forecasts

Research firm Gartner has revised its PC shipment forecasts for the next several years, including 2010, and the company is blaming the iPad. Even more interestingly, the firm said that the PC industry’s model of competing on price has stifled innovation, and that this lack of innovation is finally catching up to those companies.

While PC sales (which includes Macs) are still increasing, Gartner has lowered its projections, and said the “media tablet” sales could displace some 10% of PC unit sales by 2014. For 2010, Gartner now expects PC unit sales of 352.4 million, a 14.3% increase. That’s down from the 17.9% increase the company had forecast as recently as September of this year. In 2011, the firm expects unit sales of 409 million, a 15.9% increase, which is down from the 18.1% increase previously forecast.

“These results reflect marked reductions in expected near-term unit growth based on expectations of weaker consumer demand, due in no small part to growing user interest in media tablets such as the iPad,” Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner, said in a statement. “Over the longer term, media tablets are expected to displace around 10 percent of PC units by 2014.”

Gartner believes that tablets — and let’s take time out to note that Apple owns roughly 95% of the tablet market right now, so the company really means “iPads” — offer “better on-the-go content consumption,” and that they will be, “increasingly embraced as complements if not substitutes for PCs where voice and light data consumption are desired.”


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Paying the Piper

The company has also recognized what Apple recognized more than 10 years ago, and that’s the dead-end nature of the rush-to-the-bottom competition to sell cheaper and cheaper PCs, and the debilitating effect that has on innovation.

Research director George Shiffler said, “PCs are still seen as necessities, but the PC industry’s inability to significantly innovate and its overreliance on a business model predicated on driving volume through price declines are finally impacting the industry’s ability to induce new replacement cycles.”

He added, “As the PC market slows, vendors that differentiate themselves through services and technology innovation rather than unit volume and price will dictate the future. Even then, leading vendors will be challenged to keep PCs from losing the device ‘limelight’ to more innovative products that offer better dedicated computer capabilities.”

Our translation of that is, “Huh, looks like the future belongs to Apple after all.”

These kinds of comments mark a significant departure from the days when analysts and pundits the world over said that the only way to compete was through open licensing, the Microsoft way. Apple was criticized for its proprietary model, its whole widget approach to selling computers, and the company was repeatedly advised by such people to stop making hardware and license Mac OS X.

Apple is the only PC company competing with a whole widget model, and one of the only companies making enough profit on the sale of its hardware to finance the R&D necessary to develop the kind of disruptive products that iPod, iTunes, iPhone, and iPad have been, all while Mac sales have grown quarter after quarter.

Gartner’s comments are the among the first from the mainstream to explicitly acknowledge the dirty little secret of the PC industry, competing on price is a dead end in terms of innovation, and worse (for those companies), that this is going to allow those consumers to think about other devices, like the iPad, when it comes to getting their digital information and entertainment.