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Gartner: RIP PCs - tablets will CRUSH you this year

Bad luck, Windows - you'll do better in 4 more years

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PC sales are in terminal decline thanks to the continued popularity of tablets and there’s nothing an anticipated surge in ultramobiles can do to stop it.

That’s according to beancounters at Gartner, who reckon the outcome will be anaemic growth rates for Microsoft’s Windows in 2013 as Google’s Android blows the doors off.

Gartner has estimated that this year will see 2.4 billion devices shipped – that’s PCs, tablets and mobile phones combined – growing nine per cent over 2012.

The analyst said 2017 would see 2.9 billion units moved but what people will be buying between now and then will change substantially. Starting this year, the news is bad for desktop PCs and notebook OEMs and good for tablet and smartphone makers - at least according to the analysts.

The number of PCs sold in 2013 will fall 7.6 per cent compared to 2012, to 315 million units, with the only bright spot being ultramobiles, which will increase 140 per cent to 23 million units.

Tablet shipments will surge 69 per cent to 197 million units, while smartphones will make up an ever-increasing slice of the mobile phone pie. Of the 1.875 billion mobile phones Gartner predicts will be sold in 2013, a whopping 1 billion units are predicted to be smartphones, compared with 675 million units in 2012 (out of 1.746 billion).

Gartner accredited the shift to a proliferation of lower-priced tablets and smartphones and their growing capability, which means consumers spend more time fondling screens than punching keys and moving mice. The analyst said tabs are becoming the consumer's main computing device.

Gartner called this a permanent shift rather than a temporary trend induced by a "more austere economic environment".

Research vice president Carolina Milanesi said in a statement: "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."

The change means Windows will struggle to grow: Gartner reckons on just 2.2 per cent growth to 354 million units in 2013, compared to a 73 per cent increase for Android to 861 million units and 37 per cent for Mac and iOS to 293 million.

Long term, there is hope for the world’s largest software maker. By 2017, Gartner reckons on a second-place fight between Windows and Apple’s iOS and Mac, with 570 million and 504 million units to be sold by the Redmond and Cupertino camps respectively. Android will continue to dominate the number-one spot, with 1.46bn units.

Gartner doesn’t break out by device type, it combines iOS and Mac from Apple and throws Windows for Intel and ARM tabs and Windows Phone into the same pot, even though - technically speaking - the platforms are all different and are not exactly the same code, despite coming from the same makers. The suggestion from Gartner is that Microsoft’s phone or tablet strategies will have gained traction and that its devices will be selling in larger numbers four years from now. ®

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