Tablet shipments to grow rapidly as PCs decline; Android rules the roost, says report

Summary:Another nugget from the Dept. of the Rather Obvious, tablet shipments are expected to grow by a massive 70 percent while PC and laptop shipments decline by 7.3 percent, while Android will remain the platform favorite by three-times its closest rival, all by 2017.

Gartner's latest figures on PCs, tablets and smartphones — collectively known as combined worldwide devices — are expected to hit 2.4 billion units this year, a 9 percent increase on the year before, according to the firm.

By 2017, the growth in this area is expected to hit 2.9 million, but the mix of these devices will change and shift over time, with a greater onus on portability and mobile devices.

The figures echo, for the most part, IDC's latest figures, released just over a week ago. The rival research firm said that tablet shipments will vastly outnumber PCs and laptops this year, and portable PCs will take much of the brunt the following year.

What's clear is that the mobile world is set to reign over all else, and the one behemothic PC empire is set to collapse around itself in the coming 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," according to Gartner research vice president Carolina Milanesi in prepared remarks.

Breaking down the figures, while tablets, smartphones and ultramobile devices (tablets running full desktop operating systems, like the Surface Pro running Windows 8, for instance) are set to increase by just shy of 70 percent to 197 million units in 2013, the traditional PC market — including desk-based machines and laptops — is expected to decline by 7.6 percent. 

Gartner says this isn't a sudden change or a result of economic difficulties in Europe or further afield — as we know based on previous reports, it falls down to a change in user behavior over the long term.

Screen Shot 2013-04-04 at 08.30.23
(Credit: Gartner)

It's grim reading for Microsoft as the overall shift towards mobile and ultramobile devices running Android is expected to outnumber Windows-based machines by nearly three times. Currently, with the rate of decline, by 2017 Android will have 1.46 million devices running the platform while Windows-based machines will peg around the half-million mark. 

This can be attributed to lower sales of Microsoft's Surface tablet, other Windows 8 and RT-based machines by end manufacturers, and an underlying slumping PC market.

Screen Shot 2013-04-04 at 08.30.35
(Credit: Gartner)

This is where it gets interesting. Combined, by 2017 Android will have about the same overall share by shipments as its rivals put together.

Apple's iOS and Mac machines will fall just behind Windows as the third favorite platform — which isn't much of a surprise considering the growing unification between iOS and OS X, and the vast second-place market share Apple already has in the tablet space. But for the enterprise favorite, Apple currently holds the top spot, though  Android is increasingly gaining traction in the business space

"The trend towards smartphones and tablets will have much wider implications than hardware displacement," said Milanesi.

Correction at 1:15 p.m. ET: An earlier version of this story said Microsoft will have 1.46 million devices by 2017, when it should have said Android.

Topics: PCs, Laptops, Tablets

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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