Worldwide tablet shipments are projected to overtake desktop PC shipments this year and laptop shipments next year, according to market research company IDC.
IDC's Worldwide Smart Connected Device Tracker estimated that worldwide tablet shipments will climb to 190 million units this year, up 48.7 percent over 2012, and surpass shipments of desktop computers, which are expected to decline 4.3 percent to 142 million.
"In emerging markets, consumer spending typically starts with mobile phones and, in many cases, moves to tablets before PCs," said Megha Saini, research analyst for IDC's Worldwide Smart Connected Device Tracker, in a statement. "The pressure on the PC market is significantly increasing and we can see longer replacement cycles coming into effect very soon and that, too, will put downward pressure on PC sales."
IDC also noted that Apple significantly closed the gap with market leader Samsung in the fourth quarter, as the combination of Apple's iPhone 5 and iPad Mini brought Apple up to 20.3 percent unit shipment share versus 21.2 percent for Samsung. On a revenue basis for the fourth quarter, Apple continued to dominate with 30.7 percent share versus 20.4 percent share for Samsung.
The IDC report also found that last year, more than 1 billion smart connected devices (desktop PCs, notebook PCs, tablets and smartphones), with a value of $576.9 billion, were shipped worldwide, representing 29.1 percent growth year over year. The market expansion was largely driven by 78.4 percent year-over-year growth in tablet shipments, which surpassed 128 million in 2012.
IDC predicts the worldwide smart connected device space will continue to surge, with shipments surpassing 2.2 billion units and revenues reaching $814.3 billion in 2017.
"Consumers and business buyers are now starting to see smartphones, tablets, and PCs as a single continuum of connected devices separated primarily by screen size," said Bob O'Donnell, program VP for clients and displays at IDC. "Each of these devices is primarily used for data applications and different individuals choose different sets of screen sizes in order to fit their unique needs. These kinds of developments are creating exciting new opportunities that will continue to drive the smart connected devices market forward in a positive way."
These findings dovetail with a recent Adobe Systems study that found that tablets are growing in popularity. That tablets are overtaking shipments of PCs is significant since the device has only been on the market for a few years.
As industry analysts eulogized the era of the desktop computer, PCWorld cautioned against dismissing the PC so readily.
"It's impossible to know what to expect on the distant horizon, but in the near future, the world will continue breathing life into PCs even while tablets sales surge," wrote PCWorld's Ian Paul. "Are we living in a post-PC era? Ha."
At this point the writing is on the wall. Even if PCs continue to sell, the market for mobile devices, particularly for tablets, is blowing up; it would behoove B2B marketers to get their mobile strategies nailed down to ensure they are effectively reaching their customers and prospects. A recent Microsoft study highlighted various types of multiscreen behavior and how marketers can leverage that information to better engage customers and prospects.
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