Statistics released this week by market research firm IDC show that, during the second quarter of this year, China surpassed the U.S. for the first time as the world’s top market for personal computer (PC) shipments. According to IDC, manufacturers worldwide shipped a total of 18.6 million PCs to China during the second quarter compared to 17.7 million to the U.S. Although the U.S. is still expected to top China in total PC shipments for the year (73.5 million units versus 72.4 million units) as a result traditionally strong holiday sales, experts believe that China will overtake the U.S. in annual shipments starting next year. While China’s strong showing in PC sales is said to be a marker of soaring demand among the Chinese for electronic devices and of the increasing wealth of China’s population, a spokeswoman for IDC also said the trend reflects the “relative stagnation of more mature regions” such as the U.S., where PC shipments fell by 4.2% for the quarter. One factor behind the trend, observers say, is the surging popularity of smart phones and wireless tablets that, increasingly, are supplanting desktop and laptop PCs as the preferred means of accessing the Internet among U.S. consumers. Although an IDC spokeswoman also agreed that economic difficulties affecting the U.S. “have had a significant impact on China’s move to the lead,” she stipulated that such difficulties “have not changed the trend, but accelerated it.”