Global PC sales moved up just 2.7% in the fourth quarter as consumers opted to stay at home or chose alternative electronic devices.
Market watcher IDC said unit shipments were below its projections of a 5.5% rise but the 92.1 million units sold still represented the largest quarter on record.
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"Consumer fatigue is playing an important role in many markets as the Mini Notebook surge wanes and consumers watch their spending and evaluate other products," said IDC research analyst Jay Chou.
US shoppers are clearly cautious about spending their cash in the current climate but IDC reckoned high penetration rates, a 'good enough' computing experience with existing PCs and competition from Apple's iPad dragged down retail sales.
The festive quarter in EMEA was soft as the "stellar uptake" of media tablets diverted funds away from traditional PCs but the region also suffered from high inventory levels.
Rival analyst Gartner estimated market expansion at 3.1% to 93.5 million PCs - again below expectations of 4.8% growth - and agreed the consumer market was weak but said the business sector had showed some uplift.
"The bright side of the PC market during the fourth quarter of 2010 was a steady growth in the professional market driven by replacement purchases," said Garnter principal analyst Mikako Kitagawa.
The market dynamics clearly highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of the major vendors, with HP sales falling 1.2%, Acer declining 1.8%, Dell up 3.9%, Lenovo soaring 21.4% and Toshiba rising more than 12%.
For 2010, PC sales totalled 350.9 million, up 13.8% year-on-year.