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Report: PCs Sag as Tablets Surge

Global PC shipments continue to drop in 2013 while tablet sales soar, according to two new forecasts from market research firm International Data Corporation (IDC).

PC Forecast
PC shipments will drop by 10.1 percent for the year, down from a previous forecast of 9.7 percent, "and by far the most severe yearly contraction on record," according to an IDC news release.

Looking further out, IDC said that total shipments will continue to decline by an estimated 3.8 percent in 2014 before "turning slightly positive" and remaining just above 2008 numbers at about 305 million units per year in 2017.

The consumer market is driving the majority of the current decline, dropping nearly 15 percent this year as compared to only a five percent drop in the commercial market which is being bolstered by more stable planning, less disruption from tablets and replacement of Windows XP machines before 2014 when support for them will end.

"However," according to information released by the company, "the long-term outlook for the two markets is not significantly different, with a small decline projected for both consumer and commercial segments in 2014 with near flat growth in the longer term."

"Perhaps the chief concern for future PC demand is a lack of reasons to replace an older system," said Jay Chou, senior research analyst, Worldwide Quarterly PC Trackers at IDC, in a prepared statement. "While IDC research finds that the PC still remains the primary computing device — for example, PCs are used more hours per day than tablets or phones — PC usage is nonetheless declining each year as more devices become available. And despite industry efforts, PC usage has not moved significantly beyond consumption and productivity tasks to differentiate PCs from other devices. As a result, PC lifespans continue to increase, thereby limiting market growth."

Tablet Forecast
Tablet sales, according to the company, continue to boom, and should reach 221.3 million units sold for the year, a surge of 53.5 percent over 2012 sales.

That growth will continue in the near future, albeit at a slower pace, said IDC, which predicted sales of the devices to increase an additional 22.2 percent in 2014 as they slide to single digit growth in 2014 with a predicted volume of 386.3 million units.

Google's Android operating system is the biggest winner in this year's boom, with a market share of 60.8 percent, up from last year's share of 52 percent. The company predicts that share to drop by 2017, though only by one percent.

Apple's iOS, on the other hand, saw a nearly identical decrease in market share, falling to just 35 percent from last year's share of 45.6 percent. IDC predicts that decline to slow over the next few years with iOS grabbing a projected share of 30.6 percent in 2017.

Windows tablets improved to 3.4 percent of the market this year from just .9 percent last year. IDC said they expect the operating system to account t for 10.2 percent of all tablets sold by 2017.

"One key factor to watch going forward is the mix of small versus large tablets," according to a company news release. "The market has trended toward small tablets in a big way over the last 24 months, but the rise of large phones could well push consumers back toward larger tablets as the difference between a 6-inch smartphone and a 7-inch tablet isn't great enough to warrant purchasing both. Apple's launch of the iPad Air, a much thinner and lighter version of its 9.7-inch product, could herald another market transition back toward larger screens, presuming consumers are willing to pay the higher costs associated with bigger screens."

"In some markets consumers are already making the choice to buy a large smartphone rather than buying a small tablet, and as a result we've lowered our long-term forecast," said Tom Mainelli, IDC research director, tablets, in a prepared statement. "Meanwhile, in mature markets like the United States where tablets have been shipping in large volumes since 2010 and are already well established, we're less concerned about big phones cannibalizing shipments and more worried about market saturation."

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].

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