Tablet shipments worldwide are expected to surpass those of PCs in 2015, although PCs will enjoy something of a rebound in sales this year.
Research firm Gartner projects that almost 321 million tablets will be shipped next year compared to 261.7 million traditional PCs (desktop and notebook computers). Adding in “premium” ultramobiles, which include high-end laptop/tablet hybrids like Windows 8 devices and Gartner classifies as PCs, would bring the total PC market in 2015 to nearly 317 million.
This year, 256 tablets, including the iPad and Android-based devices, will ship versus 308 million PCs, including 296,000 traditional units.
Despite years of shrinking sales, 2014 is shaping up as a relative bright spot for PCs. After declining 9.5% in 2013, the global market is on pace to contract only 2.9% this year, thanks in part to Microsoft ending support for Windows XP.
"Business upgrades from Windows XP and the general business replacement cycle will lessen the downward trend, especially in Western Europe," said Ranji Atwal, research director at Gartner. "This year, we anticipate nearly 60 million professional PC replacements in mature markets."
As tablets themselves reach mainstream adoption, growth is expected to slow this year to reach 256 million units, increasing 23.9% from 2013. Lower demand for smaller tablets in mature markets and a shift toward phablets -- large smartphones -- in emerging ones like South-East Asia are contributing to the slowdown in growth.
“The next wave of adoption will be driven by lower price points rather than superior functionality," noted Atwal.
Based on first-quarter results, IDC has taken an even dimmer outlook for tablet demand this year. The research firm recently lowered its tablet forecast from growth of 22% to 12.1%, a steep drop from the 51.8% growth in 2013.
When it comes to mobile phones, Gartner predicts 1.9 billion units will ship this year, up 3.1% from last year. The firm estimates smartphone sales will account for (88%) of global mobile phone sales by 2018, up from 66% in 2014. That underscores how lower-priced, mostly Android devices have helped smartphones proliferate well beyond mature, Western markets.
In that vein, Google’s Android is expected to continue to dominate worldwide, with a 30% share of shipments across mobile phones, ultramobiles (including tablets) and PCs in 2014. Specifically, 1.1 billion Android devices will ship this year, up from 899 million in 2013, followed by Windows (333.4 million) and iOS (271.1 million).
Gartner said Apple’s expected release of the iPhone 6 in September will satisfy demand for a larger phone screen, helping to boost the company’s overall device shipments 15% this year, for a 15% market share overall. While Windows phones will have only 4% share this year, that figure will grow quickly from a low base in 2014 to 10% share in 2018.
The research firm estimates the combined shipments of devices (PCs, tablets, ultramobiles and mobile phones) will hit 2.4 million units this year, up 4.2% from 2013.