The tablet category is continuing to eat the PC’s lunch, albeit it’s a large lunch so the feast is taking a while. Analyst Gartner expects worldwide tablet shipments to grow 42.7% this year, with shipments reaching 184 million units. And while traditional PCs are still shipping a lot more units (303,100 forecast for this year), those shipments are continuing to decline — predicted to be down 11.2% on 2012 shipments.
That’s lower even than Gartner’s prior forecast, back in April, when it said it expected PCs to decline 7.3% this year.
Growth in the so-called ultramobile category — aka lightweight laptops and portables running a full desktop OS such as Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablet – is offsetting the traditional PC decline somewhat. But even adding in that category, overall PCs plus ultramobiles are forecast to decline 8.4% this year. Gartner previously said it expects tablets to be outshipping desktop computers and ultramobiles combined by 2017.
By 2014, it now expects the gap between traditional PCs and tablet shipments to have narrowed to just over 18,000 more PCs than tablets shipped, although it expects ultramobiles to have grown to close to 40,000 units shipped by then (up from around 18,600 this year).
Growth in the ultramobile category will be down to serving users that need to “balance work and play” considerations in a single device, said Gartner — thereby allowing hybrid ultramobiles to step in and offer the functionality of a PC in the form factor of a tablet.
Turning to tablets proper, smaller and cheaper is the order of the day — with consumers’ preference for the 7-inch form factor causing continued price decline in premium tablets. The raft of cheaper priced tablet hardware — from the likes of Amazon with its Kindle Fire line and Google with its Nexus-branded slates — is clearly helping to underpin overall tablet growth, taking share away from Apple’s more expensive iPad line.
Smaller tablets are also going to put a dent in the smartphone’s holiday appeal, according to Gartner. ”Continuing on the trend we saw last year, we expect this holiday season to be all about smaller tablets as even the long-term holiday favourite — the smartphone — loses its appeal,” said Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner, in a statement.
More generally, while the mobile phone market is expected to continue to experience steady growth, Gartner is calling time on the “opportunity for high average selling price (ASP) smartphones”. It expects growth in the mobile segment to be powered by mid-tier smartphones in mature markets, and low-end Android smartphones in emerging markets. So again, cheap devices are winning out. The wider point there is that many developed markets are saturated — pushing smartphone growth to emerging countries where lower ASP devices are required.
Gartner’s forecast for worldwide device shipments by operating system this year and next (rounded up percentage marketshares below) shows Android continuing to build out its empire — helped by growth in cheaper tablets and smartphones. Android will be approaching a half-market share across all the device types by 2014, while Windows/Windows Phone and iOS/Mac OS manage only marginal growth:
- Android 38%
- Windows 14%
- iOS/Mac OS 12%
- RIM 1 %
- Others 35%
- Android 45%
- Windows 15%
- iOS/Mac OS 14%
- RIM 0.8%
- Others 26%
On the wearables front, Gartner expects the market opportunity to remain primarily about companion devices that are used in conjunction with mobile phones, rather than replacing them. Gartner predicts that less than 1% of consumers will replace their mobile phones with a combination of a wearable device and a tablet by 2017.
“In the short term, we expect consumers to look at wearables as nice to have rather than a ‘must have’, leaving smartphones to play the role of our faithful companion throughout the day,” added Milanesi. ”For wearables to be successful, they need to add to the user experience by complementing and enhancing what other devices already offer. They also need to be stylish yet practical, and most of all hit the right price.”