It’s not exactly a new prediction, but evidence of a post-PC era continues piling up. According to a new report from Gartner Inc., worldwide shipments of traditional PCs -- both desk-based and notebook -- are expected to dip 11.2 percent by the end of this year. What’s more, the market research firm expects the PC market, including ultramobiles, to decline 8.4 percent in 2013.
It seems mobile is killing the PC stars. Indeed, Gartner projects mobile phone shipments to grow 3.7 percent, with volume of more than 1.8 billion units. And tablet shipments are expected to grow a whopping 42.7 percent in 2013, with shipments reaching 184 million units.
"While consumers will be bombarded with ads for the new ultramobile devices, we expect their attention to be grabbed but not necessarily their money," said Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner. "Continuing on the trend we saw last year, we expect this holiday season to be all about smaller tablets as even the long-term holiday favorite -- the smartphone -- loses its appeal.”
Smaller is Better
Gartner reports that premium tablets are faced with continued price decline in the seven-inch form factor as a larger number of consumers prefer smaller form factors when it comes to content consumption.
A recent consumer study Gartner conducted in Brazil, China, France, Germany, Italy, the U.K., the U.S. and Japan confirmed Gartner's long-standing assumption that smaller is better when it comes to consumer tablets. The survey showed that the average screen sizes of the tablets in use across the countries ranged from 8.3 inches to 9.5 inches. Forty-seven percent of the 21,500 consumers surveyed owned a tablet that was 8 inches or smaller. But there is yet another factor emerging: hybrids.
"Although the preference is for dedicated devices, we see the opportunity for hybrid ultramobile to marry the functionality of a PC and the form factor of the tablet. Users that have to balance work and play will find that the advantage of buying and carrying one device outweighs the compromise in the full experience that single devices can deliver," said Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner. "Users who are not limited by their disposable income will likely have a basic tablet as a companion device to their ultramobile on which most of their consumption activities will take place."
The Microsoft-Nokia Impact
Microsoft's acquisition of Nokia doesn't have a major impact on the forecast, because Gartner already assumed that Nokia would have accounted for the vast majority of Windows Phone share throughout the forecast, with only minimal volume coming from other OEMs, such as HTC or Samsung.
"Windows Phone challenges in the smartphone market remain the same, with the need to bring on board more developers and enrich the ecosystem, as well as turning the Windows Phone brand into a cool smartphone brand,” said Milanesi. “While there are clear benefits to the acquisition, such as channel strength, carrier relationship and emerging-market knowledge, the brand and ecosystem do not directly benefit from it.”
The end of Windows XP support in 2014 isn't expected to impact device sales, as Gartner says 90 percent of large enterprises have either migrated or are migrating to Windows 7 or Windows 8. But is there a place for Microsoft on the tablets front? We asked Roger Kay, senior analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates, for his view.
“Microsoft has a conflict between wanting to be part of the new world of tablets and trying to support its traditional client base at the same time,” Kay told us. “This conflict has caused it to create a Frankensystem that does neither task well. Something will have to resolve before Microsoft can move forward and gain significant share in tablets.”