PC sales plummet worldwide as tablets and smartphones roar ahead

4 Apr 2013

As a possible indication of the declining fortunes of the personal computer as we know it, Gartner has grouped PCs in with tablets, smartphones and other connected devices to indicate that some 2.4bn connected devices will ship in 2013, rising to almost 3bn a year by 2017.

The proliferation of lower-priced tablets and their growing capabilities is accelerating the shift away from PCs.

“While there will be some individuals who retain both a personal PC and a tablet, especially those who use either or both for work and play, most will be satisfied with the experience they get from a tablet as their main computing device,” said Carolina Milanesi, research vice-president at Gartner.

“As consumers shift their time away from their PC to tablets and smartphones, they will no longer see their PC as a device that they need to replace on a regular basis,” she said.

The traditional PC market is expected to decline 7.6pc in 2013. Between 2012 and 2013 there will be 26,000 less PCs sold in the world as PC shipments are projected to fall from 341,263 in 2012 to 315,229 in 2013.

This decline is going to continue with 302,315 projected to ship in 2014 and just 271,612 sold in 2017.

Rise of the tablet form factor


By contrast, tablet computers are going to see an exponential rise in shipments from 116,113 in 2012 to almost 200,000 by the end of 2013. By 2017, there will be annual sales of around 467,951 tablets.

Mobile phones are also going to continue on their stellar growth curve, rising from 1.7m shipped in 2012 to 1.8m in 2013, almost 2m in 2014 and more than 2.1m by 2017.

“Lower prices, form factor variety, cloud update and consumers’ addiction to apps will be the key drivers in the tablet market,” said Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner.

“Growth in the tablet segment will not be limited to mature markets alone. Users in emerging markets who are looking for a companion to their mobile phones will increasingly choose a tablet as their first computing device and not a PC,” Atwal added.

Android tipped to continue to dominate OS league table


Android continues to be the dominant OS in the device market, buoyed by strong growth in the smartphone market.

Competition for the second spot will be between Apple’s iOS/Mac OS ecosystems and Microsoft’s Windows environment.

But Gartner points out that tablets are not the only device type that is seeing aggressive price erosion. Smartphones are also becoming more affordable, driving adoption in emerging markets and the prepay segment in mature markets.

Of the 1.875bn mobile phones to be sold in 2013, 1bn units will be smartphones, compared with 675m units in 2012.

“The trend towards smartphones and tablets will have much wider implications than hardware displacement,” Milanesi explained.

“Software and chipset architecture are also impacted by this shift as consumers embrace apps and personal cloud.”

Tablet business team image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years