With the booming popularity of smartphones and tablet PCs, the conventional PC industry is slipping into free fall. The world's three largest PC manufacturers are seeing their shipments drop, and some experts expect tablets to outsell desktop PCs in the U.S. within two years.
Market researchers said global PC shipments fell in the first quarter compared to a year ago, the first drop in six quarters, with Gartner and IDC reporting declines of 1.1 percent and 3.2 percent, respectively. Gartner had forecast the figure would rise by 3 percent.
Shipments by the world's top three PC makers -- HP, Dell and Acer -- all decreased in the quarter compared to the same period last year.
The decline is attributable largely to the sweeping popularity of tablets, which are more portable and easier to work with than traditional PCs but can be used for many of the same functions such as web browsing, emailing and playing online games. According to AC Nielsen, 35 percent of tablet buyers said they now use PCs less frequently or not at all.
The tablet market is expected to grow more than three-fold this year to sales of 58.88 million units.