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Smartphones, Tablets to Outstrip PC Sales in 2011

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More than half the computers shipped this year will not be PCs, but rather will be mobile devices, including tablets, smartphones, and non-PC netbooks — outstripping PC sales for the first time.

However, it’s not yet time to short PC makers’ stocks, because sales of PCs and laptops continue to grow, according to the 2011 edition of Deloitte’s “Predictions for the Technology, Media, and Telecommunications (TMT).”

The ten-year-old annual publication is a move by mammoth professional services firm Deloitte to provide forward-looking perspectives on what technologies are likely to have “significant medium to long-term impacts for TMT and other industries” over the next 12 to 18 months.

“While PC sales are likely to reach almost 400 million units [in 2011], Deloitte’s estimate for combined sales of smartphones, tablets and non-PC netbooks is well over 400 million,” the predictions, which were released on Thursday, said.

“Unlike the 2009 netbook phenomenon, where buyers chose machines that were essentially less powerful versions of traditional PCs, the 2011 computing market will be dominated by devices that use different processing chips and operating systems than those used for PCs over the past 30 years,” the predictions continued.

The document characterizes the looming shift as a “tipping point” as the world moves to a more heterogeneous environment of constant connectivity.

In fact, Deloitte said that PC sales are on target to grow 15 percent this year over 2010 — all told, there are some 1.5 billion PCs in use worldwide.

As the environment evolves, though, change is coming.

For instance, Deloitte predicts that enterprises will buy a quarter of all tablet PCs purchased in 2011 — perhaps as many as 10 million. However, the move towards heterogeneous environments, will not bring standardization in non-PC computing devices — not this year, at any rate.

Instead, Deloitte’s seers expect a mobile environment with at least two major chip architectures and as many as five different operating systems. A winner, Deloitte said, is unlikely to emerge this year.

Neither is Deloitte the only company releasing predictions regarding PCs, tablets, and smartphones this time of year.

For example, a forecast from global consultancy Accenture (NYSE: ACN), released earlier this month, predicts that sales rates for PCs will decline 39 percent this year at the same time that tablet computer sales will jump by 160 percent, and smartphone sales will grow 26 percent.

The full Deloitte “Predictions for the Technology, Media, and Telecommunications 2011” report is available here as PDF.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.

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