Gartner has published its latest report with smart devices projections for smartphones, tablets, ultramobiles and PCs from 2012 to 2017, and it’s as clear picture as you can get of how mobile rules today and will continue to dominate the device landscape tomorrow. Echoing results from IDC’s global device forecast last month, Gartner’s numbers make more grim reading for Microsoft — the company with the most to lose as the old empire of the PC continues its slow decline, trumped by the price, simplicity and convenience of Android and iOS-powered mobile computing devices.
Gartner is projecting a 7.3% decline in the traditional desktop and laptop computer category this year, although ultramobile devices (portables running a full desktop OS such as Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablet, pictured above) are expected to offset the decline slightly — so the collective drop for these two categories is projected to be 3.5%.
But the real engine of growth is of course tablets, with worldwide shipments forecast to total 197 million units in 2013: a 69.8% increase on 2012 shipments of 116 million units. By 2017, Gartner expects tablets to be outshipping desktop computers and ultramobiles combined, although it does not make a specific prediction for the tipping point year for tablets. (IDC said last month that it expects tablet shipments to outstrip PCs this year, and portable PCs next year.)
Over its forecast period Gartner also projects steady growth for smartphones. Overall, the total smart devices market is projected to grow 9% this year, to reach 2.4 billion units.
“You need to own consumers in terms of mobile and tablet in order to remain relevant in this market,” said Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi. Gone are the days when Windows is the “default” option for the majority of consumers, thanks to alternatives being too technical (Linux) or too expensive (Macs), she said. “Consumers have options and consumers are choosing and Microsoft can not take that for granted that they’ll be the one to be chosen.”