Slowing netbook sales and the rise of media tablets like the Apple iPad have had a huge impact on the key Western European PC market, with just half a per cent in growth from 2009's third quarter.

The European, Middle East and African regions have seen a 10.5 per cent increase in PC shipments in the past three months, but the lucrative Western European market has slowed to just 0.5 per cent growth, year on year.

PC sales have been watched carefully during the credit crunch – with one of the most important areas in technology providing an interesting look at consumer spending.

And according to the latest figures from IDC, the market is still growing with shipments up to 27.8 million PCs in the third quarter of 2010.

Mini-notebook

However, the good news is tempered by the revelation that what IDC terms 'mini-netbook' sales have dropped by a quarter.

"After robust trends in 1H10 [the first half of the year], growth in Western Europe slowed to single-digits, with shipment levels recording a flat 0.5% growth year on year," said IDC.

"The deceleration was directly impacted by weaker than expected mini notebook demand, which led to a 25 per cent drop in shipment levels.

"Demand for netbooks had already started to slow down in prior quarters, but the arrival of new media tablets contributed to shifting interest further away and accelerated the trend."

Apple to blame?

IDC's decision to point the finger at the tablet is an interesting one, with suggestions that the Apple iPad has led a move away from the traditional laptop market.

"Mini notebooks had started to slow down in 1H10, but increasing noise and announcements around Media Tablets have contributed to accelerating the trend, and also impacted notebook renewal intentions from a share of wallet standpoint," said Eszter Morvay, research manager, IDC EMEA PC Tracker.

"Some users already purchased an iPad, and many others adopted a wait and see position as more products develop towards Christmas."

Of course, Apple has just released its most 'mini notebook' with the 11 inch MacBook Air, and Mac sales are buoyant.