Cloud-based services are beginning to outweigh the appeal of PCs

First, music geeks. Then, the world. Apple's iCloud and Google Music Beta helped catapult cloud-based storage into the mainstream lexicon last year, allowing users to store downloaded tracks online and access them on myriad devices. That's only the beginning, says Gartner.

According to the research group, cloud services offer more options for increasingly tech savvy consumers. No longer is the personal computer the uncontested heart of information, fun and online connectivity, explains Steve Kleynhans, vice president of research, Gartner.

Over the next two years, the analyst expects the cloud itself will take over for do-it-all PCs.

"Major trends in client computing have shifted the market away from a focus on personal computers to a broader device perspective that includes smartphones, tablets and other consumer devices," says Kleynhans. "Emerging cloud services will become the glue that connects the web of devices that users choose to access during the different aspects of their daily life."

Tablets in particular exploded over the past year as PC shipments floundered. Apple alone sold 15.4 million iPads last quarter, with Amazon and Barnes & Noble both seeing solid numbers for their new tablets. The early adopter starting line is already in the distance.

But this doesn't mean the end of the PC as we know it, notes Kleynhans. Not exactly, anyway.

"Many call this era the post-PC era, but it isn't really about being 'after' the PC, but rather about a new style of personal computing that frees individuals to use computing in fundamentally new ways to improve multiple aspects of their work and personal lives," he says. "Users will use a collection of devices, with the PC remaining one of many options, but no one device will be the primary hub. Rather, the personal cloud will take on that role."

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