Worldwide s PC shipments totalled 84.3 million units in the first three months of 2011, a 1.1 percent decline from the first quarter of 2010, according to a recent report by Gartner.

While the first quarter is typically a slow one for computer sales, the weak sales, especially among consumers, suggest the decline was more than just a seasonal slowdown.

The researchers say that steady growth in business purchases kept the computer market from experiencing one of the worst declines in its recent history.

"Weak demand for consumer PCs was the biggest inhibitor of growth," said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner. "Low prices for consumer PCs, which had long stimulated growth, no longer attracted buyers. Instead, consumers turned their attention to media tablets and other consumer electronics. With the launch of the iPad 2 in February, more consumers either switched to buying an alternative device, or simply held back from buying PCs."

HP, which experienced a 3.4% sales decline, remained the leader in PC sales accounting for about one in six computers sold worldwide. (see chart below). Acer, the number two seller suffered a huge decline in sales, over 12%, primarily due to a 25% decline in the sale of of mini-notebooks.

In the U.S., PC shipments totalled 16.1 million units in the first quarter of 2011, a 6.1 percent decline from the first quarter of 2010. "As with the worldwide market, the U.S. PC market was affected by the hype surrounding media tablets. This was the third consecutive quarter of mobile PC shipment declines in the U.S.," Ms. Kitagawa said. "The U.S. professional PC market showed steady growth across all sectors. However, the public sector showed more than the normal seasonal weakness due to budgetary issues."

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