The launch of the Apple iPad could herald an industry shift in sales from desktop PCs to handheld devices, according to Gartner.
The analyst firm expects sales of traditional and next-generation tablet devices to reach 10.5 million worldwide in the coming year, and to account for 70 per cent of all shipments of PCs worldwide by 2012.
Principal Gartner analyst Ranjit Atwal warned vendors not to limit development to traditional PC form factors, as the rise of web-delivered applications means that many users no longer need a traditional PC.
"Apple's iPad is just one of many new devices coming to market that will change the entire PC ecosystem and overlap it with the mobile phone industry," he said. "This will create more opportunities for PC vendors as well as significantly more threats."
George Shiffler, research director at Gartner, added that the PC industry is set for a dramatic shift as users look to new and more innovative devices rather than traditional desktop machines.
"Mini-notebooks are forecast to boost mobile PC growth in 2010, but their contribution is expected to decline noticeably afterwards due to growing competition from ultra-low-voltage ultra-portables and next-generation tablets, " he said.
However, despite predicting a long-term shift away from traditional desktops, Gartner expects worldwide PC shipments to jump a huge 19.7 per cent in the coming year, from 305.8 million units in 2009 to 366.1 million in 2010.
Gartner also said that overall PC spending will reach $245bn (£162bn), a rise of 12.2 per cent on 2009.
The figures mark a dramatic increase on the company's December forecast, in which spending was predicted to rise just 1.9 per cent and PC growth 13.3 per cent.
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