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Gartner cuts 2011 PC forecast; Microsoft considering own-brand Windows 8 tablet

Gartner lowered its forecast Wednesday for global PC growth in 2011 as demand for netbooks continues to slump and Apple's iPad causes disruption, while Microsoft is reportedly considering launching its own brand of Windows 8 tablet PCs next year.

Gartner forecast

Research group Gartner indicated that it expects global PC shipments to grow 9.3 percent this year to 385 million units, down from its previous forecast of 10.5 percent, the Associated Foreign Press reports. Gartner had arrived at the 10.5 percent number in March after lowering its forecast from 15.9 percent growth in 2011.

"Consumer mobile PCs are no longer driving growth, because of sharply declining consumer interest in mini-notebooks," Gartner research director Ranjit Atwal said in a statement.

Atwal also sees the iPad as affecting sales, though he believes consumers are merely using the iPad to put off new PC purchases, rather than fully replace them. "Media tablets, such as the iPad, have also impacted mobile growth, but more because they have caused consumers to delay new mobile PC purchases rather than directly replacing aging mobile PCs with media tablets," he said. "We believe direct substitution of media tablets for mobile PCs will be minimal."

Gartner sees businesses as driving PC growth this year, as consumers appear to be "maintaining a tight rein on their spending" because of economic uncertainty. "Businesses sharply reduced replacements and extended PC lifetimes in response to the recession," said research analyst Raphael Vasquez. "Businesses have begun replacing aging PCs more vigorously."

Microsoft tablets

A new rumor suggests that Microsoft is looking into launching an own-brand tablet PC by the end of 2012, according to sources from the upstream supply chain.

In response to threats from Apple's continued growth with the iPhone, iPad and Macs, as well as Google's entry into the operating system market, "Microsoft plans to copy its branding strategy from product lines such as Xbox 360, Zune, Kin smartphone and TV, to compete in the tablet PC segment," DigiTimes reports.

The only Microsoft-branded product line that has seen success, however, is the Xbox 360. The Zune media player, the company's own-brand TVs and especially the Kin smartphone have all performed below expectations. Regardless, Microsoft is "still considering to launch an own-brand tablet PC and is proceeding on a low profile," sources said.

Sources also added that Microsoft would likely continue its plans for an Integrated Development Program alongside development of an own-brand tablet PC. Microsoft reportedly postponed the IDP, which places tight restrictions on chip vendors and OEMs building Windows 8 devices, after vendors expressed outrage at the restrictions.