Are old-fashioned PCs on the comeback trail? That might depend on how you define "comeback," but one study indicates that desktop PCs and notebooks will at least make up some ground, as tablets keep showing strong sales numbers. A study released Monday by Gartner
indicates growth in the PC market will continue to contract through 2014, and will lag behind tablet shipments, which are still going strong.
Even so, the market for PCs in the near term looks positive, analysts say. The PC market saw a 9.5 percent drop in 2013, but Gartner speculates that decline will slow to a 2.9 percent reduction this year.
In 2015, the number of PC shipments, including traditional desktops and notebooks, as well as premium ultramobile systems, is projected to climb to almost 317 million units. That forecast is up about 2.9 percent over this year and close to the number of units shipped in 2013.
Shipments of traditional desktops and laptops are expected to drop from 296.1 million last year to 276.2 million this year, then down again to 261.6 million next year.
On the plus side, ultramobiles -- the thin, portable laptops exemplified by Apple’s MacBook Air -- are expected to gain more market share, according to the Gartner study, with shipments forecast to rise from 21.5 million in 2013 to 32.2 million in 2014, and 55 million in 2015.
Part of the uptick may be coming from the global business market, according to Gartner research director Ranjit Atwal.
"Business upgrades from Windows XP and the general business replacement cycle will lessen the downward trend, especially in Western Europe," Atwal said in a statement. "This year, we anticipate nearly 60 million professional PC replacements in mature markets."
Tablets and Phones Still Surging
Tablet shipments, meanwhile, are projected to continue their upward trend, rising by 24 percent to reach 256 million units by the end of 2014, and almost 321 million in 2015. Mobile phone shipments are expected to top 1.8 billion units this year, up 3.1 percent from 2013, and then reach 1.9 billion in 2015.
Smartphones will continue to account for the majority of mobile phone shipments, making up 88 percent of all mobile phone sales worldwide by 2018. That number is up from 66 percent this year, with much of the increase coming via the commercial PC space, the analysts say.
A Maturing Market
Sales of desktop PCs, when measured by the number shipped, have been declining for years as laptops and tablets have become more powerful and portable. Gartner points out that, as with any devices, adoption goes through phases of popularity from early to late adopters, and tablets are now moving into the latter part of that curve in mature markets.
The picture in international markets is slightly different. The Gartner research found lower demand from users for tablets with smaller screens, some in favor of larger screens, in more mature markets. However, Gartner also observed a shift towards "phablets" -- smartphones that are close in size to tablets -- in Southeast Asia.
Looking ahead to projected sales by platform, Gartner predicts that Android will be responsible for the lion's share of new shipments, shipping on 1.17 billion devices in 2014, and 1.37 billion in 2015. Gartner forecasts iOS and Mac OS sales combined at 271 million units for this year and 301 million in 2015, while Windows-device shipments are expected to top 333 million this year and 374 million next year.