Those soothsayers at technology advisor and research company Gartner have gathered on a hill on a stormy night and cast their animal bones onto the ground and stared deeply into a cauldron bubbling with exotic spices and single newt eyeballs and gone: "hmm, the PC market seems to be shrinking. And it will probably continue to shrink."

"We've witnessed a decline across all PC segments this quarter in Western Europe," said principal analyst at Gartner, Meike Escherich. According to Gartner figures, that decline saw a 15.2 per cent decrease in mobile PC shipments in Q3 2012 across Europe, with desktop PC shipments down 15.7 per cent. Professional and consumer PC markets have declined by 15.8 per cent and 15 per cent, respectively.

But what does this mean, besides there being fewer computers on ships, trains and lorries across all of Europe? According to Gartner boffins, the figures indicate a couple of sea changes: firstly, that June and July were principally stock clearing months, with vendors looking to reduce inventory ahead of the big tech launches of the Microsoft Surface tablet, Windows 8 and the iPad 3.

However, Gartner analysts have also noted that HP lost market share, but retained the top spot when it came to professional PC segments. Basically: walk into any office in Western Europe, and you'll be greeted with a HP-powered pack mule of a PC.

"HP's new leadership team has undertaken several initiatives to reignite its business, but transition periods are always difficult," said Escherich.

Similarly, Acer laptop and desktop numbers were hit - the brand retained the consumer PC market lead, but saw a double-digit volume decline in the professional PC segments. Third-place supplier Asus saw netbook volumes decline and ultrabook uptake remain static.

"The PC market will eventually return to growth, but the growth rate will not be at the level it was a few years ago," the expert added. "The real long-term challenges for the PC industry and PC vendors are to show growth and bring out products that can compete with the compelling new mobile devices coming on to the market."ADNFCR-1220-ID-801486022-ADNFCR
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