Large numbers of consumers are switching to tablets as their main computer, according to market-research firm Gartner. And the analysts say this isn't a temporary blip, but a long-term trend.
"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.
The firm says that 116 million tablets shipped last year, and predicts that this will grow to 197 million this year, 266 million in 2014, and 468 million by 2017.
Gartner doesn't see the future being nearly so rosy for laptops and PCs. The analysts says that shipments of these totaled 350 million last year, but will slow to 339 million this year. The analysts see strong growth in ultramobile laptops reversing the downward trend a little bit in 2014, with a slight increase to 341 million. By 2017, sales should be up to 367 million, still buoyed by ultramobiles.
Computer Makers Need To Shift Focus
The shift from PCs to tablets is bad news for companies who depend on consumers buying new laptops or desktops every couple of years. "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," said Milanesi.
This is apparently a global trend. "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."
Android vs. iOS vs. Windows
This market-analysis company points out that there are already more Android-based devices being sold than Windows ones. Shipments of devices running Google's operating system will triple between 2012 and 2117.
Gartner doesn't see a decline in Microsoft's sales in the coming years but an increase instead, probably because of Windows-based tablets. "Winning in the tablet and phone space is critical for them to remain relevant in this shift," Milanesi told the Guardian.
Shipments of tablets and smartphones running Apple's iOS will continue to grow strongly, more than doubling between 2012 and 2017.
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