PC sales crash as buyers shift focus to tablets

PERSONAL computer sales plunged into decline for the first time in more than a decade last year as consumers switched to buying tablets, in a serious blow to PC manufacturers and software companies.

Figures released yesterday by research firm Gartner showed that worldwide sales of PCs fell by 12.7m – or 3.5 per cent – to 352.7m last year, the first time the market has shrunk since 2001.

One of the companies worst-hit by the slump, Dell, was yesterday reported to be in talks to go private. Shares in the company leapt last night after Bloomberg reported that the US company had talked to at least two private equity firms over a leveraged buyout. Dell did not comment.

The global fall in PC sales was put down to lukewarm demand for Microsoft’s new software, Windows 8, and increasing appetite for devices such as Apple’s iPad. The decline shows a shift in buying habits that threatens Microsoft – which has pinned its hopes on the success of Windows 8 – as well as Dell and HP, which saw sales slip.

The figures include Apple’s Mac computers, though sales of these are expected to have increased marginally. China’s Lenovo, which briefly became the world’s bestselling PC firm last year, and Taiwan’s Asus saw double-digit growth, but Dell and HP suffered, with total sales down nine per cent.

Tablet makers have long talked about a “post-PC world”, in which most home computing is done on tablets and smartphones. Tablet sales are expected to have doubled last year to roughly 120m.