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PCs vs. Tablets: Are Computers Dying Off?

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Critics have begun questioning whether PCs are dead in the tablet era, with worldwide personal computer shipments in Q1 2011 down by 3.2 percent over last year. According to market research firm IDC, this is the first sales decline since the recession’s end, with total PC shipments, including desktop, laptop and mini-notebook computers, reaching 80.6 million, a decline of 2.6 million since 2010.

The top three vendors all saw performance dips, with HP’s shipments sinking by 2.8 percent, Dell’s by 1.8 percent and Acer’s by a whopping 15.8 percent. U.S. fourth-place manufacturer Apple, like Lenovo and Toshiba, bucked trends, with shipments up 9.6 percent to nearly 1.4 million. Global results prove worse than anticipated, with IDC having originally predicted a measly 1.5 percent growth for the category.

Whether we’ve moved into the so-called “post-PC” era, as Apple has publicly alleged, remains unlikely, with high-powered, keyboard-equipped computers still a fixture in homes and offices across the planet. But IDC does cite compelling evidence that times are changing, pointing toward the public’s growing shift to tablets, a reluctance to upgrade good-enough older models, “waning consumer enthusiasm” and a “lack of compelling new PC experiences.”

“‘Good-enough computing’ has become a firm reality, exemplified first by Mini Notebooks and now media tablets,” said IDC senior research analyst Jay Chou. “Macroeconomic forces can explain some of the ebb and flow of the PC business, but the real question PC vendors have to think hard about is how to enable a compelling user experience that can justify spending on the added horsepower.”

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