In an increasingly mobile world, PCs are steadily ceding the computing device market to tablets.
A new forecast from International Data Corporation (IDC) paints an increasingly bleak picture for PC makers. IDC expects global PC shipments, including both laptops and desktop models, to drop by 7.8 percent this year to 321.9 million units from 349.2 in 2012.
Shipments will bounce back up to 333.4 million units in 2017, but will still fall far short of the market's peak in 2011 when vendors shipped 363 million PCs. Driving the decline, says IDC Worldwide Quarterly PC Trackers program vice president Loren Loverde, are mobile devices that more than capable of handling the "everyday computing" needs of users.
"Many users are realizing that everyday computing, such as accessing the Web, connecting to social media, sending emails, as well as using a variety of apps, doesn't require a lot of computing power or local storage. Instead, they are putting a premium on access from a variety of smaller devices with longer battery life, an instant-on function, and intuitive touch-centric interfaces," said Loverde in a statement.
As a result, users are hanging on to their PCs longer, crimping demand. "These users have not necessarily given up on PCs as a platform for computing when a more robust environment is needed, but this takes a smaller share of computing time, and users are making do with older systems," added Loverde.
Meanwhile, the PC maker's pain is a tablet vendor's gain.
The market research firm expects tablet shipments to outpace the PC market by 2015. This year, IDC predicts that tablet shipments will reach 229.3 million units in 2012, a 58.7 percent increase over last year's total of 144.5 million units.
IDC Mobility Trackers program manager Ryan Reith echoes some of the Loverde's thoughts on the shifting roles of PCs and tablets in today's computing environment.
"Tablets surpassing portables in 2013, and total PCs in 2015, marks a significant change in consumer attitudes about compute devices and the applications and ecosystems that power them," stated Reith. While his firm believes that PCs will continue to serve an "important role" in a market that increasingly favors mobile devices, "for many consumers, a tablet is a simple and elegant solution for core use cases that were previously addressed by the PC," he added.
Price is a contributing factor. This year, the worldwide average selling price for tablets will fall 10.8 percent to $381. In contrast, buyers will shell out $635 for PCs on average.
Google's popular Android mobile operating system deserves some of the credit. "While Apple has been at the forefront of the tablet revolution, the current market expansion has been increasingly fueled by low-cost Android devices," stated IDC.
Consumers are also flocking to mini tablets. IDC expects sub-8-inch tablets to capture 55 percent of the market in 2013 and 57 percent in 2017. Full-sized slates (8-inch to 11-inch) will make up 43 percent of the market this year and 37 percent in 2017.
And while they're big on screen real estate, supersized tablets (11-inches and above) will only add up to a morsel of the overall market. These armfuls will attract 2 percent of the market in 2013 and 6 percent in 2017.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.