Tablets boom, PCs slump: the inflexion point is now

Two weeks ago, IDC published research showing that tablets will almost certainly outsell desktop PCs this year, and will outsell laptops next year. Over a billion mobile computing devices were sold in 2012, of which 128 million were tablets − 78% year-on-year growth.

Today, IDC published its figures on PC shipments in Q1 2013, and they were dire. Sales were down almost 14% on the same quarter last year — the largest annual fall on record.

Hopes that the launch of Windows 8 might spur PC sales were dashed. In fact, according to Gartner VP Bob O’Donnell, “it seems clear that the Windows 8 launch not only didn’t provide a positive boost to the PC market, but appears to have slowed the market.” Windows 8 is designed for touch-sensitive screens, which add to the cost of a PC. Together, the changes and higher prices “have made PCs a less attractive alternative to dedicated tablets and other competitive devices,” he said.

According to Gartner, global PC shipments fell below 80 million units for the first time since the second quarter of 2009, despite the strengthening economy. it seems very unlikely that PC sales will rebound, or that the growth in tablet sales will taper off any time soon.

My prediction: when we look back in five years, Q1 2013 will be seen as the critical inflexion point in the switch from PCs to tablets. From now on, a computer will primarily mean a tablet or phone for most people most of the time, and a desktop PC will retreat to being a specialised device for office work. A bit like a desktop phone.

Is your tablet strategy in good shape?


4 Responses

  1. This comes as no surprise. You only have to look at the share price of Intel, Dell and Microsoft over the last 12 months so see these companies have been in decline due to the migration from desktop to mobile although Dell has recently picked up due to buy out talks.

  2. Windows 8 is a massive fail on Microsoft’s part to attend to a large portion of their audience – business users. It has had a severe impact on PC sales. In my opinion, Windows 8 is a larger influence on depressed PC sales than the growth of tablet sales. We need to buy multiple new laptops for our business, but we’re delaying purchase because we don’t want to migrate to Windows 8. How many other businesses are delaying equipment upgrades for the same reason?

  3. @CandyceEdelen — but Windows 8 is simply Microsoft’s necessary response to the mobile/consumer computing explosion, following the dismal performance of Windows Mobile and faced with the looming obsolescence of its desktop-only OS. So it’s really a mobile story whichever way you look at it.

  4. […] with the backdrop of the PC market set to hit an inflexion point, with tablets set to outsell desktop PCs, things seem to be about to […]

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