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The growing popularity of tablet computers - which offer Wi-Fi and mobile broadband - is contributing to a decline in personal computer sales, it has been suggested.

According to IT analyst Gartner, PC shipments fell by 4.9 per cent during the fourth quarter of 2012 to just over 90 million worldwide.

The firm said the growing popularity of tablets - such as the Apple iPad - has led to a significant drop in demand for laptops and desktop computers.

"Whereas once we imagined a world in which individual users would have both a PC and a tablet as personal devices, we increasingly suspect that most individuals will shift consumption activity to a personal tablet," Principal Analyst Mikako Kitagawa stated.

"There will be some individuals who retain both, but we believe they will be [the] exception and not the norm."

Ms Kitagawa predicted that many households will not replace secondary PCs in the household, instead allowing them to 'age out' as they spend more time using a tablet.

She said the transformation in the industry has been triggered by the availability of compelling low-cost mobile devices - more of which became available in 2012.

In the UK a number of broadband providers offer Wi-Fi and mobile broadband deals for tablet computers, allowing users to access the internet on the move.

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