Ozzie, Cook, Gartner: The three horsemen of the PC apocalypse?

Summary:Gartner predicts that PC shipments will rise by only 4.4 percent in 2012, signalling a massive slowdown in the market. Has the tablet finally taken over?

Apple's Tim Cook revealed some interesting numbers at yesterday's special event, in which in the new iPad was announced, along with a new Apple TV and some other software goodies.

Apple's numbers show that how far the world has progressed since the PC in line with tablet sales, in particular the extreme growth of the iPad since its inception. Former Microsoft executive 'confirmed' that the post-PC world was upon us at a conference in Seattle. And now Gartner says that PC shipments will rise by a mere 4.4 percent in 2012 to 368 million units.

In singular, you might not have thought twice. Together, it's almost undeniable that we are indeed living in the post-PC world.

Without wanting to dredge up old news --- or debates for that matter --- the definition of a 'post-PC' device let alone a 'post-PC' world is still vague and yet to be clarified. It's probably safe to say that anything that moves away from a desktop or laptop-based computer is a post-PC device.

But whether or not a series of unfortunate --- and in some cases tragic events --- have spurred on the post-PC 'evolution', it remains unclear. The Thai floods are undoubtedly going to have an effect on the PC market, and the natural move towards tablets is only helping that process along.

"PC shipments will remain weak in 2012, as the PC market plays catch up in bringing a new level of innovation that consumers want to see in devices they purchase,” said Gartner research director 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.”

Exactly.

Windows 8 could sway it either way, while Apple's OS X "Mountain Lion" remains firmly a desktop and laptop operating system. The trouble Microsoft faces with Windows 8 is while its roots are in PCs, it has no choice but to branch out into the tablet and slate world in order to stave off competition.

Competition is rife, and if Microsoft wants to take a chunk out of the iPad market share pie, it has to find a way to compete.

"However, PCs will face more competition as we see new media tablets based on operating systems from Android and Microsoft, as well the new iPad," Atwal added.

Just as tablets are the next logical progression from the PC, the PC market is still developing on its own, just at a far slower rate. Netbooks were a disaster, and ultrabooks --- spurred on by the MacBook Air 'movement' --- have yet to be proven a success.

As Cook said yesterday, Apple sold more than 15 million iPads in the last quarter alone, which is more than any PC maker did in the same period. But the iPads gain is not the PC's loss, however.

Together, the PC industry is still going strong, but is weak. While Macs are only a small portion of the PC environment, Microsoft has a lot of power in its hands. Microsoft can keep the PC business alive with its next iteration of Windows if it does it right.

Image source: CNET.

Related:

Topics: CXO, Apple, Hardware, IT Priorities

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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