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Preliminary figures from Gartner and IDC show a clear decline in traditional PC sales figures in the third quarter of 2012. IDC says shipments are down 8.6% while Gartner puts the fall at 8.3%.

Either way, the numbers are ugly.

The IDC analyst responsible for the research company’s PC Tracker service says “PCs are going through a severe slump.”

Maybe. But to me the word ‘slump’ implies there may be a recovery. I’m not convinced that’s true. I see a clear shift away from PCs to smartphones and tablets.

Another IDC analyst forecasts as return to positive growth later this year after Microsoft’s Windows 8 officially launches.

Sure, PC sales could tick up when the new OS arrives. Yet I doubt many buyers are holding off laptop or desktop purchases while they wait for Windows 8.

On the other hand, Windows 8 will also run on tablets. And there may well be a pent-up demand from businesses and corporations for a tablet that works more like a Windows desktop than Apple or Android devices. Many of those devices will replace traditional PCs.

Personal computers will be around for many years to come, maybe even decades. But they have passed their peak.