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Apple's iPad expected to help hold 2013 PC growth to 2%

A new forecast calls for worldwide PC sales to grow just 2 percent this year, held back by demand for Apple's iPad and a tepid response to Windows 8.

Shaw Wu with Sterne Agee issued a note to investors on Monday provided to AppleInsider in which he said he foresees slower-than-expected growth. While most market research firms believe the PC market could grow as much as 9 percent in 2013, he thinks it will be much lower, thanks to a number of factors.

Among those reasons is the competitive threat of Apple's iPad, which now has a starting price of $329 with the entry-level iPad mini. Wu said Windows 8 hardware priced between $500 and $1,200 is "uncompetitive" compared to lower-priced options from Apple and even Google's Android.

Expected struggles in the PC market will also be driven by Apple's Mac lineup, Wu believes. He said Apple's "highly differentiated" computers will continue to eat away at PC marketshare, while Microsoft's Windows platform will also be hurt by low-cost device makers based in the Asia-Pacific region.

In fact, Wu believes Microsoft could see growth from its previous-generation Windows 7 operating system in 2013. He believes the more familiar look and feel of Windows 7 could appeal to some users and businesses who will be upgrading from Windows XP, which Microsoft plans to end support for this year.

As for Windows 8, Microsoft's latest PC operating system, Wu doesn't believe that adoption will be as fast as many other prognosticators have expected.

While consumers may be confused by Windows 8, as some others have projected, Wu said that even Microsoft's PC-making partners are unsure what to build that will appeal to consumers.

"The feedback we have gotten from supply chain sources is that there is great confusion, as there are too many form factors (PC notebooks, tablets, ultrabooks, and convertibles) and most do not know what to build and will actually sell," he said.

Going forward, Wu expects the PC to "become more of a niche." In that respect, he's in agreement with Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who viewed the iPad as part of a transition to the post-PC era.

Wu sees PC refresh cycles lengthening to between 5 and 7 years, much longer than the 2-to-3-year cycles that have historically existed in the PC market. Taking their place will be mobile devices, which he expects will be upgraded ever 1 to 3 years.

"We see smartphones and tablets becoming the 'daily driver' while PCs are more like trucks for specialized tasks," he said.