Analyst house IDC has revealed its latest predictions of the PC industry, and the results aren't pretty: shipments of desktop systems are expected to fall by 7.8 per cent this year, the biggest decline in the platform's history.
Laptops aren't immune, either. IDC predicts that tablets will outsell laptops this year, and that by 2015 the fondleslab will be king of all computer shipments, with a surge in the numbers of Android systems outpacing those of tablet market-maker Apple.
"What started as a sign of tough economic times has quickly shifted to a change in the global computing paradigm with mobile being the primary benefactor," said Ryan Reith, program manager for IDC's Mobility Trackers.
"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," he said. "IDC continues to believe that PCs will have an important role in this new era of computing, especially among business users. But for many consumers, a tablet is a simple and elegant solution for core use cases that were previously addressed by the PC."
According to IDC, annual PC shipments peaked in 2011 at 363 million units and have been in decline ever since. This year's predicted crash in sales is going to hurt major vendors such as HP and Dell. Sales of desktops will decline in 2014, although only by 1.3 per cent, and could rise very slightly in 2015 as businesses moving from Windows XP buy new hardware to upgrade.
But even that boost isn't going to be as big as some have predicted, according to the analysts. Greater use of cloud computing and the overall speed of modern systems mean that there are fewer reasons to upgrade, and the increasing amount of employees buying their own hardware means that the upgrade cycle that manufacturers are relying on will become less and less important.
"The BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) phenomenon has moved from smartphones to tablets and PCs with nearly 25% of employees in organizations larger than 10 people claiming to have purchased the primary PC they use for work," said Bob O'Donnell, IDC's VP of clients and displays. "This means that some of the corporate PC purchases we expected this year will no longer happen."
When you're buying your own kit, cost becomes much more of an issue – and this favors fondleslabs, the reasoning goes. The average selling price (ASP) for a tablet is expected to fall over 10 per cent to $381 per unit, compared to $635 for a PC.
Size is one reason for that fall in prices for tablets. Apple's 9.7-inch iPad standard will be superseded by seven and eight-inch models, IDC predicts. By 2017, tablets with less than an eight-inch screen will account for nearly 60 per cent of fondleslabs sold.
All this is very bad news for firms such as Dell and HP. Lenovo is currently the only PC vendor making a profit on its desktop lines, and US manufacturers had expected that as the global economy improves, so too would their bottom lines. This hope now appears forlorn. ®