Gartner today published its latest report with projections for smartphones, tablets, ultramobiles and PCs from 2012 to 2017. “You need to own consumers in terms of mobile and tablet in order to remain relevant in this market,” said Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi. Gone are the days when Windows is the “default” option for the majority of consumers, thanks to alternatives being too technical (Linux) or too expensive (Macs), she said. “Consumers have options and consumers are choosing and Microsoft can not take that for granted that they’ll be the one to be chosen.”
Gartner is projecting a 7.3% decline in the traditional desktop and laptop computer category this year, although ultramobile devices (portables running a full desktop OS such as Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablet, pictured above) are expected to offset the decline slightly — so the collective drop for these two categories is projected to be 3.5%.
But the real engine of growth is of course tablets, with worldwide shipments forecast to total 197 million units in 2013: a 69.8% increase on 2012 shipments of 116 million units. By 2017, Gartner expects tablets to be outshipping desktop computers and ultramobiles combined, although it does not make a specific prediction for the tipping point year for tablets. (IDC said last month that it expects tablet shipments to outstrip PCs this year, and portable PCs next year.)
Over its forecast period Gartner also projects steady growth for smartphones. Overall, the total smart devices market is projected to grow 9% this year, to reach 2.4 billion units.
On the breakdown of OSes, Microsoft’s loss and Google’s and Apple’s gain is clear: Android consolidates its dominance this year, pulling further away from Windows, while iOS/MacOS narrows the gap with its old computing foe. By 2017 Gartner projects a huge lead for Android, with approaching 1.5 billion device shipments (powered by Android’s dominance in the smartphone space). And while Windows (in both its desktop and phone flavours) is still forecast to be ranked second, iOS/MacOS is not far behind, with 570.9 million vs 504.1 million respectively.
The low price of tablets is a key factor driving their adoption, says Milanesi, but it’s not just price that’s powering the category. Smartphones are acting as halo devices to drive tablet adoption, thanks to users’ existing investments in apps and familiarity with the lighter weight OSes. Touch interfaces and cloud computing are also playing a role, along with the integration of Wi-Fi. While consumers in emerging markets are coming to computing from the phone, not the desktop PC — making tablets a “more natural upgrade path”, rather than the PC, she said.
“Another misconception is you need a PC in order to be productive and that productivity is measured as far as you need a PC to do Excel work. Well there are an awful lot of people out there who are very productive without ever touching Excel,” added Milanesi. ”The change that touch and tablets are bringing are here. They’re not going to go away. So you better enable that transition so that people can take full advantage of it vs continue to fight it.”
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