Arik Hesseldahl

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The iPad Strikes Again: Gartner Cuts Its PC Market Forecast

In another sign that notebook PCs are out and tablets are in, research firm Gartner has dramatically cut its sales growth forecast for the PC sales this year and next.

Gartner now says that PC shipments will grow by 10.5 percent, down from a previous forecast of a much more robust 16 percent. It doesn’t get much better in 2012. Gartner now expects growth of 13.6 percent down from 14.8 percent previously.

There are two forces at work. First, demand for PCs is generally weaker in China, but there’s also an overall loss of interest among consumers for mobile PCs, Gartner analyst Ranjit Atwal explained in a statement. Sales of Mobile PCs have been growing like crazy for the last several years, and particularly as Wi-Fi has penetrated the home and office. But now that smart phones and tablets–especially the iPad–have brought the Internet everywhere a notebook can go plus lots of other places too, notebooks just aren’t as cool as they once were.

And there’s more bad news for notebook vendors: Not only are sales of new notebooks slowing, but consumers are expected to keep their existing notebooks for a longer period of time. In mature markets like the U.S. and Europe, notebook sales will be growing at an average of less than 10 percent over the next five years, down from 40 percent during the previous five years.

This isn’t the first time that Gartner has put out data showing how tablets are encroaching on the notebook market. In January, Gartner and its main rival IDC came out with fourth quarter sales data that was weaker than expected, in part because of iPad sales.

Tablets were supposed to be–or so the conventional wisdom went–entertainment and media consumption devices, not something you could do any serious work on. That’s clearly turning out not to be the case.

And while for the most part sales of notebooks into large corporations is secure–Gartner says it still expects double-digit growth in sales of professional notebooks–that segment is not without its own set of iPad-centric worries. As Apple said on its latest earnings conference call, 80 percent of Fortune 100 companies are putting iPads to work in their businesses, and Apple is actively pushing the iPad as a device that’s as useful at the office as at home.