Can ultrabooks halt the ‘post PC world’ onslaught?

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At Apple’s iPad launch event CEO Tim Cook waxed lyrical about being in a post PC world. The overarching message seemed to be “tablets are the way forward”, even though the message was Apple was trying to convey was more along the lines of “our tablet is the way forward”.

But are we actually living in a post PC world, in which tablets are rapidly becoming the computing device of choice?

The latest stats from tech research company Gartner would appear to suggest exactly that.

The company says that global PC shipments will grow by 4.4% in 2012 to 368-million units. That growth does, however, come on the back of serious decline in some regions.

In another report Gartner claimed that PC shipments in Western Europe totalled 16.3-million units in the fourth quarter of 2011, a 16% decline from the equivalent period in 2010.

The company predicts that the market will remain weak in 2012, especially as it “plays catch up in bringing a new level of innovation that consumers want to see in devices they purchase”.

According to research director at Gartner Ranjit Atwal, “the real question is whether Windows 8 and ultrabooks will create the compelling offering that gets the earlier adopter of devices excited about PCs again.”

The device that’s torn everyone away from PCs? The tablet.

“The use of applications such as e-mail, social networking and internet access, that were traditionally the domain of the PC, are now being used across media tablets and smartphones, making these devices in some cases more valued and attractive propositions,” says Atwal.

“Consumers will now look at a task that they have to perform, and they will determine which device will allow them to perform such a task in the most effective, fun and convenient way. The device has to meet the user needs not the other way round,” he added.

Game, set, and match tablets then. Or is it?

Gartner thinks the PC market could pick up going into 2013, especially as ultrabooks start getting more attention. Shipments are expected to pick up to around the 400-million mark by the end of 2013, it says.

Thing is, even if the PC market picks up, it will still face some pretty big competition in the form of new Android and Microsoft tablets, as well as the continued presence of the new iPad.

Then there’s the cloud. According to Atwal, the personal cloud could “add to the hurdles for PC vendors to overcome to revive the PCs and differentiate them from tablets.”

There is, however, one saving grace for PCs: emerging markets.

“Emerging markets are key to driving worldwide PC growth in both the short and long-term, and our expectation is that 2012 and then 2013 onwards will be supported by growth in emerging markets as their share increases from just over 50 percent in 2011 to nearly 70 percent in 2016,” says Atwal. “Emerging markets have very low PC penetration and even with the availability of other devices we still expect a steady uptake of PCs.”

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