Worldwide PC shipments fell 3.2 per cent in the first quarter due to weakening demand from enterprise and consumer segments, said market research outfit IDC.
The fall in the PC market was unexpected as IDC had previously forecast that the market would grow by 1.5 per cent year-on-year in the first quarter. The fall in PC sales is also the first decrease since the recession.
Rival market analyst outfit Gartner was also caught on the hop by the the surprise downturn but Gartner said the fall in PC sales was less, just 1.1 per cent over PC sales a year ago.
Gartner was previously more bullish about the first quarter than IDC, projecting 3 per cent growth versus IDC's cautious 1.5 per cent. The firms also differed in their analysis of the contributing factors for the fall in PC shipments.
Gartner laid the blame squarely at the emerging tablet market with analyst Mikako Kitagawa saying: "Low prices for consumer PCs, which had long stimulated growth, no longer attracted buyers. Instead, consumers turned their attention to media tablets and other consumer electronics."
"With the launch of the iPad 2 in February, more consumers either switched to buying an alternative device, or simply held back from buying PCs. We're investigating whether this trend is likely to have a long-term effect on the PC market," added Kitagawa.
IDC wasn't so sure that tablets were to blame. "While it's tempting to blame the decline completely on the growth of media tablets, we believe other factors, including extended PC lifetimes and the lack of compelling new PC experiences, played equally significant roles," said IDC client and displays boss Bob O'Donnell
The firm suggested that the rise of "good-enough computing" played a role as PC vendors struggled to come up with ways to "enable a compelling user experience that can justify spending on added horsepower."