PC demand drops. Could iPad be to blame?

In the first quarter of 2011, PC shipments fell compared to this time last year, leaving analysts a bit dazed.

Without any terrible economic conditions, there was no reason to believe anything other than a potential growth for PC sales. But then there’s the iPad factor.

Both IDC and Gartner, competing analyst firms, noted that Apple’s iPad most likely in some way affected sales of conventional PCs. While there’s been a lot of high-concept speak about tablets replacing computers, this is the first hard evidence to support such a claim.

“Good-enough computing has become a firm reality, exemplified first by mini notebooks and now media tablets. Macroeconomic forces can explain some of the ebb and flow of the PC business, but the real question PC vendors have to think hard about is how to enable a compelling user experience that can justify spending on the added horsepower,” said IDC analyst Jay Chou in a statement.

Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa had a similar reaction, saying that PC makers did nothing wrong. “Instead, consumers turned their attention to media tablets, and other consumer electronics,” Kitagawa said.

While it’s hard to make any sort of sweeping statement like traditional PCs are on the path of obsolescence, this statistic certainly brings shock value. No one had been predicting this.