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Device shipments to reach 2.4bn in 2013: Gartner

PCs to see 7.6% decline as consumers continue shift to handhelds

Device shipments to reach 2.4bn in 2013: Gartner
The shift to handheld computing is driving a decline in PC shipments.

Worldwide devices (the combined shipments of PCs, tablets and mobile phones) are on pace to total 2.4bn units in 2013, a 9% increase from 2012, according to research firm Gartner Inc.

Device shipments are forecast to continue growing, reaching more than 2.9bn units in 2017, but the mix of these devices will significantly change over the forecast period.

The proliferation of lower-priced tablets and their growing capability is accelerating the shift from PCs to tablets, Gartner said.

"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."

As a result, the traditional PC market of notebooks and desk-based units is expected to decline 7.6% in 2013. This is said not to be a temporary trend induced by a more austere economic environment; it is interpreted as a reflection of a long-term change in user behavior. Beginning in 2013, ultramobiles will help offset this decline, so that sales of traditional PCs and ultramobiles combined show a 3.5% decline in 2013.

Worldwide tablet shipments are forecast to total 197m units in 2013, a 69.8% increase from 2012 shipments of 116m units.

"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 phone will increasingly choose a tablet as their first computing device and not a PC."

In the shares of operating systems (OSs) in device sales, the shift to mobile and the fight for the third ecosystem becomes more evident. 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 and Microsoft Windows.

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 are expected to be smartphones, compared with 675m units in 2012.

"The trend towards smartphones and tablets will have much wider implications than hardware displacement," said Milanesi.

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

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