The Japanese might be renowned for their obsession with new technology, but it seems there is one loser in the battle; the humble PC.

The market there has been shrinking for some time and analysts are now wondering if the same could happen in other markets. After all, what's more exciting? A new Dell desktop or a Nintendo Wii?

Is the desktop dying out?

"The household PC market is losing momentum to other electronics like flat-panel TVs and mobile phones," said Masahiro Katayama, research head at analyst IDC. "Consumers aren't impressed anymore with bigger hard drives or faster processors. That's not as exciting as a bigger TV," Katayama told the Associated Press.

PC shipments in Japan have fallen for the last five quarters. But this trend isn't reflected in the European market. New figures from Gartner today reckon PC shipments across Western Europe totalled an impressive 13.8 million units in the third quarter of 2007. That's an increase of 17.7 per cent compared with the same period in 2006.

Garter believes it's all to do with 'back to school' marketing as well as other "aggressive price promotions across all countries". The fact is that PC makers are worried about their sales - so they're giving us what we want in the form of cheaper prices. However, the upshot of this is that, while short term sales are good, longer term shipments may be more of a problem.

UK buyers still love PCs

The UK is one of the weakest of the Western European markets, but it still showed a 13.6 per cent increase compared with the same period last year. That's still 2.9 million units in three months.

HP has become the biggest vendor in the UK for the first time in four years. "HP and Dell control more than 45 per cent of the UK market, and with mobile growth remaining strong, HP could extend its market share in the fourth quarter of 2007," said Ranjit Atwal, principal analyst at Gartner.

Dell continues to disappoint in terms of consumer sales as do major retailers such as PC World. The chain's boss blamed "disappointing sales of Vista-related products" for a £20 million profit hit in its half-year results.

And it's no surprise that notebook sales are now well ahead of their desktop counterparts. "Vendors are more than ever investing in meeting users' key requirements around mobility. As a result, this has led to mobile PCs constituting more than 50 per cent of PCs in both the consumer and business markets for the first time ever," Mr Atwal added.