SAN FRANCISCO -- A new report predicts worldwide sales of personal computers are bound for their first annual decline in 11 years.
The forecast issued Wednesday by the research firm IHS iSuppli projects that nearly 349 million PCs will be shipped this year. That would be a 1 percent decrease from nearly 353 million PC shipments last year.
Although small, the anticipated decline would be the first time that annual PC sales haven't grown since 2001.
PC makers began the year with hope that a new wave of lightweight laptops called ultrabooks would provide a sales lift. But the ultrabooks haven't been compelling enough to overcome the growing popularity of smartphones and tablet computers. Those mobile devices are reducing the need for consumers and businesses to buy new PCs or replace older ones.
As the year winds down, the PC industry is now counting on an upcoming makeover of the Windows operating system to revive interest in desktop and laptop machines.
Windows 8 has been redesigned by Microsoft so it can power hybrid PCs that can be controlled by touching a display screen or relying on a keyboard and computer mouse. The revamped operating system also works on tablet computers, including one that is being made by Microsoft. If the tablets running on Windows catch on, they threaten to siphon even more sales from PCs.