IT'S taken a little more than two years, but tablet computers, such as iPads, are now causing havoc in the PC market.
According to a new study from research firm IHS iSuppli, personal computer sales are expected to fall this year for the first time in more than a decade, as tablets begin to make significant inroads into their market.
The study forecasts some 348.7 million computers will be bought this year around the world, down from 352.8m in 2011. Assuming that forecast holds, and with the back to school -- the busiest time for laptop sales -- already passed, it will be the first time since 2001 that PC sales have declined.
Meanwhile, technology firm Gartner said PC shipments fell 8pc during the third quarter of the year.
Much of the decline was due to timing, Gartner said. Windows is rolling out its new ' Windows 8' operating system so consumers are holding off on buying a new PC until that system has reached the mass market.
"A continuing slowdown in consumer PC shipments played a big part in the overall PC market decline," said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner.
"The third quarter was also a transitional quarter before Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system release, so shipments were less vigorous as vendors and their channel partners liquidated inventory," he added.
There is another reason in the middle of all this though. Since the launch of the iPad 30 months ago, sales of tablets have rocketed. From what was essentially a standing start, global sales are slated to top 117 million this year, and hit 26 1million by 2016.
They have already decimated the 'ultra book' laptop market, which had been the great hope for the old PC giants such as Dell, Lenovo and Hewlett-Packard.
The slimmed down laptops, which put a premium on portability, have been caught out by the rise of the tablet, and global sales estimates have been slashed from 22 million this year to a little over 10 million.
Apple's decision to launch the iPad has changed the rules of the game completely, and it is clear that other manufacturers are struggling to keep up.
Sony had to pull a new tablet from the market because of concerns it may not be waterproof as advertised, while HTC has pulled out of the tablet market in the US. Hewlett Packard dropped its tablet long ago.
Perhaps the problems caused by the tablet computer is best reflected in Apple's share price. Since the launch of the first iPad, Apple's stock price has more than trebled to $634. In the same period, Hewlett Packard stock has plummeted from more than $50 to just $14.