Everything appears to indicate that the increase in mobile computer equipment will continue to lead to a gradual reduction in the leadership of the traditional PC.
According to a report by Gartner Consulting published this month, the estimated increase in manufactured devices (PCs, tablets, ultra laptops and smartphones) will total 2.4 billion units this year, of which only 12.6% will be PCs (versus 13.6% in 2013). Gartner's study states that the trend will continue in 2015, dropping to 12.2%, despite the expected upturn in ultra laptop sales.
Tablets versus PCs
Another of the study's significant conclusions is that tablets (devices such as Apple's iPad, Samsung's Galaxy Tab, Kindle Fire, etc.) are about to surpass PCs: although in 2014 308 million PCs were manufactured versus 256 million tablets, it is estimated that in 2015 there will be 320 million tablets made, half a million more than PCs.
However, it is also important to note that although these amounts are possible due to the rapid growth of the tablet market, PC sales in 2014 experienced a slower downturn: from a drop of 9.5% in 2013 to 2.9% in 2014: Ranjit Atwal, a research analyst for Gartner, calls it a "relative recovery" (somewhat exaggerating the concept of 'recovery') and attributes it to computer upgrading after the end of Microsoft's support for Windows XP and - in general - to a replacement cycle in this business sector, especially in Western Europe. "This year we expect nearly 60 million replacements of business PCs in mature markets", he stated.
Nonetheless , while tablets appear to be the natural heirs of PCs in this scenario, their market is showing signs of maturity: in the most developed markets, they have already passed from the 'early adopter' to a more massive customer profile, which according to Gartner will have a chain reaction effect on both sales and changes in the models in demand. "The next wave of adoption will be driven by lower prices instead of improvements in functionalities", says Atwal. Gartner also predicts a clear distinction in tablet evolution, depending on the market being considered: developed markets will pursue larger screens that improve viewing, while developing markets could opt for phablets, hybrid devices that combine features of large smartphones and small tablets.
Smartphones and Android, in the lead
However, Gartner's study does not forget to mention the other player in the field: smartphones, which are no longer referred to as an 'upward trend', but as 'the norm': this year they will represent 66% of all sales of portable devices, and the forecast for 2018 is that this will reach 88%, thanks to lower prices and sales increases in developing markets.
However, while smartphones are the leading product in the personal computer market, the system that clearly dominates the market is Android and there is nothing to indicate that this will change: in 2014, Android sales will increase by 30%, double the 15% increase in iOS devices. The latter, however, do not rank 2nd: this corresponds to "Others" (600 million devices this year, more than iOS and Windows Phone combined). So it appears that a snapshot view of the market would show Android in the lead, versus a myriad fragmentation of other software.
What are the expectations of growth for iOS and Windows Phone? Gartner foresees Apple's operating system surrendering to the demand for larger screens ("We think that the launch of the new Apple 6 iPhone will capture the accumulated demand of users that want a larger screen", said Annette Zimmerman), while the forecast for Microsoft is a modest increase in the market quota, from the current 4% to 10% in 2018.