Technology research firm Gartner on Monday said personal computer sales worldwide were on track to set a new record in 2010 but Apple’s iPad is taking a bite out of the sector.

The research firm revised its forecast for worldwide PC sales for 2010 to a total of 352.4 million units, up 14.3 percent over last year, but down from prior forecast it made in September of a 17.9 percent growth for the year.

Gartner now estimates worldwide PC sales in 2011 to touch 409 million units, up 15.9 percent over 2010 but down from its earlier forecast of an 18.1 percent growth in 2011.

“These results reflect marked reductions in expected near-term unit growth based on expectations of weaker consumer demand, due in no small part to growing user interest in media tablets such as the iPad. Over the longer term, media tablets are expected to displace around 10 percent of PC units by 2014,” Gartner Research director Ranjit Atwal said in a statement.

Last month, Gartner had estimated sales of tablet PCs like the iPad to soar to 55 million in 2011 and over 208 million in 2014 from nearly 20 million in this year.

Consumer electronics company Apple began selling its iPad in April and a number of other companies have since begun producing the multi-media devices, which can be used to surf the Web, read electronic books, watch video and more.

“PC market growth will be impacted by devices that enable better on-the-go content consumption such as media tablets and next-generation smartphones. These devices will be increasingly embraced as complements if not substitutes for PCs where voice and light data consumption are desired, Raphael Vasquez, research analyst at Gartner said.

Notwithstanding the fact that the PC industry was facing a number of challenges, emerging markets were expected to gain over 50 percent of the total worldwide PC market by the end of 2011, Gartner said.

“There is good chance that consumers (in emerging markets) will simply leapfrog PCs and move directly to alternative devices in the coming years,” Gartner said.

Consumers in the US and Europe have been putting off PC purchases due to economic uncertainty.
However, Gartner said “the bigger issue for PCs in the home market is consumers temporarily, if not permanently, forgoing PC purchases in favor of media tablets.”

“Media tablet capabilities are expected to become more PC-like in the coming years, luring consumers away from PCs and displacing a significant volume of PC shipments, especially mini-notebooks. Media tablets are rapidly finding favor with PC buyers who are attracted to their more-dedicated entertainment-driven features and their instant-on capability,” the research firm said.