Stamford, Conn. - Gartner is estimating that 368 million PC will ship in 2012, up 4.4 percent from 2011.
The research firm described the increase as weak due to the ongoing worldwide economic slump and supply issues related to the flooding in Thailand that has seriously constricted hard-drive supplies.
Gartner said the lack of consumer excitement over the category could be reversed with the upcoming release of Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system and interest in the new Ultrabook category.
Another reason PCs are losing ground is many consumers now use tablets to access email, handle social networking and for general Internet access. These are all tasks that had been in the domain of the PC.
"Consumers will now look at a task that they have to perform, and they will determine which device will allow them to perform such a task in the most effective, fun and convenient way. The device has to meet the user needs not the other way round," said Ranjit Atwal, Gartner's research director.
Atwal does expect Ultrabooks to give the category a boost during the second half of the year, but there will also be increased competition from tablets based on Android 4.0, Windows 8 and the new iPad introduced by Apple on March 7.
Another potential hurdle for the PC is Cloud-based computing. Gartner feels Cloud usage will increase as consumers begin to better understand how the Cloud functions. Since tablets are geared toward consuming Cloud-based media and not its creation, this will give them a leg up in the competition between the two form factors, Atwal said.