Research firm Gartner is forecasting that PC shipments will grow 4.4 percent worldwide this year after a small drop in 2011.
That's relatively weak growth as consumer attention turns to tablets, such as the new iPad going on sale next week. Gartner says 2012 is a year for PC makers to play catch-up.
Relief for the PC industry could come when Microsoft Corp. releases a new version of Windows later this year and PC makers design more machines that combine the convenience of tablets with the utility of a laptop computer.
Gartner research director Ranjit Atwal says the question is whether those offerings will be compelling enough to get trendsetting first buyers of new tech products "excited about PCs again."
Gartner expects worldwide shipments to total 368 million this year.