updated 10:15 am EDT, Mon October 21, 2013
Gartner sees PCs continuing to drop year-over-year
New figures from computer industry observer Gartner predict that the burgeoning tablet market will continue to expand over the next few years and will almost equal the traditional PC market by 2014. Tablet shipments grew 53.4 percent in 2013, according to Gartner, while the PC market shrank by 4.5 percent. Gartner also sees Google's Android operating system's dominance over the new computing landscape continuing to expand, even as Apple catches up with longtime rival Windows.
In 2013, desk-based and notebook PCs shipped 303 million units worldwide, while tablets shipped 184 million. By next year, Gartner expects that PCs will move just 282 million units. Tablets, meanwhile, will ship 263 million units, pulling just about even after having shipped only about one-third of total PC shipments in 2012.
The smaller tablet form factors appear to be grabbing consumer interest, as Gartner cites an internal study that found smaller devices like the iPad mini and Amazon's Kindle Fire line to be the preferred type for consumers in Brazil, China, France, German, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Gartner's survey of 21,500 consumers showed that 47 percent owned a tablet that was eight inches or less.
Along with the PC market shrinking, software giant Microsoft may have to worry about its position as the most powerful computing operating system. Android devices surpassed PCs running Windows in terms of shipments some time ago, moving 500 million units in 2012 compared to Windows' 347 million units. That gap continued to grow in 2013, with Android-powered smartphones and tablets shipping 880 million units compared to Windows' 332 million. By the end of 2014, Gartner expects that Android will ship on 1.115 billion units, while Windows will be on 364 million shipped units.
Driven by the continuing success of the iPad and iPhone, Apple will see further growth in terms of operating system market share. Devices running either iOS or OS X accounted for 272 million shipments in 2013, according to Gartner. By 2014, Apple will approach Windows in terms of shipments, with iOS and OS X devices moving 338 million units.
Meanwhile, Gartner sees lower consumer adoption rates in the wearable computing segment typified by devices like Samsung's Galaxy Gear smart watch and Google Glass. By 2017, the research firm sees the percentage of consumers replacing their mobile phones with a combination of a wearable device and a tablet at just one percent.