ComputersTablets and smartphones continue to affect PC sales, as PC shipments in 2011 grew only 1.8% worldwide, a significant drop in PC shipment growth from years prior, according to research firm IDC. The mature markets, which includes U.S., Western Europe, Japan, and Canada, saw PC shipments decline 9% on average. IDC cites tenuous economic recovery and disruptive computing devices, such as Apple's iPad and Android tablets, as the causes of the negative growth. Emerging markets is where the action is at for PCs, which had double-digit growth in PC shipments. IDC predicts that PC shipments will start to pick up this year, especially when Microsoft 8 is released, as well as new ultrabooks and other ultra-thin notebooks. Jay Chou, IDC's senior research analyst, says that Windows 8 and ultrabooks could maintain PC's relevancy, but "its promise of meshing a tablet experience in a PC body will likely entail a period of trial and error, thus the market will likely see modest growth in the near term." IDC predicts that worldwide PC shipment will grow by 5-percent in 2012.

Tablets As a Replacement for PCs

Bob O'Donell, vice president of Clients and Displays at IDC, said that tablets are powerful distractions to consumers who are looking to purchase PCs, but few people consider tablets as replacements for their PCs, citing data from a user survey. That could change later this year, when Windows 8 is released. The new operating system from Microsoft is likely to spawn a new breed of laptops with detachable screens that could be transformed into a tablet. Instead of replacing a PC with a tablet, these hybrids are set to play the role of both PCs and tablets. They may be less than ideal as a tablet when compared to their standalone counterparts, with a battery life that is typically half that of the iPad and Android tablets -- but for casual users, they could effectively eliminate the need of purchasing another tablet. Has a tablet replaced your personal PC? Do you plan on buying a hybrid computer when Windows 8 is released? Photo: Pablo Ruiz Múzquiz