Intel, Gateway and Apple lead a list of companies issuing disheartening notes about the PC's apparent decline.

Over the past fortnight all three vendors have announced that flagging desktop markets have their upcoming financial results looking less than spectacular.

Analysts seem happy to chime in with their forecasts of a fourth quarter slowdown in PC sales. IDC this week predicted a two to three quarter correction may be on the horizon.

With sentiments like these in the air and chip makers like National Semiconductor and Motorola moaning about the depressed state of the market, the immediate future looks grim for the high tech world's most famous machine.

"It is like the party is over," said Roger Kay, manager of desktop PC hardware at IDC. "It is this sobering moment where people are taking stock of where we are."

Kay attributes a large part of sagging PC sales to the stock market's slide. According to Kay consumer purchases fall first when the economy slows due to a depressed overall outlook. For this reason, vendors like Gateway and Apple with a heavy dependence on consumer markets feel the initial brunt.

With PCs still carrying a significant price tag, users now seem more more likely to purchase Internet appliances, as well as digital cameras, MP3 devices, web-enabled smart phones and PDAs (personal digital assistants).

These devices give users access to many of their favourite applications and do not burden their wallets quite as much.

Douglas Tuttle, a partner with US-based DeLoitte Consulting, sees these emerging devices as a major threat to the PCs continued dominance.

"What we are seeing is that we are definitely moving to a post-PC world," he said. "We are seeing an explosion of alternative devices. What is going to happen is that the PC is going to become more like a server in your house. With the advent of connectivity protocols like Bluetooth, you will have PCs more in the background."

Tuttle contends that the current slow down in the PC market stems from consumers making the first moves away from PCs to these devices. He adds that the business markets will follow closely behind as adoption rates for Internet appliances and handheld computers rise.