PC sales set to plummet as tablet sales take over: report

Analytics firm Gartner has painted a grim portrait of the PC market over the next couple years. But is it accurate? 

A woman uses an Apple iPad to take a picture of a video game projected on the surface of the Fiesp building, headquarters of the Industry Federation of Sao Paulo, during the 'Play!' exhibition in the financial center of Sao Paulo's Avenida Paulista, on March 27, 2013.

Sales of traditional PCs are slipping and will likely continue to slip as consumers turn to tablets such as the iPad and Nexus 7.

That's the upshot of a new Gartner report released today, which predicts that sales of notebooks and desktops – old-fashioned computing devices, in other words – will drop 7.6 percent from 2012 to 2013. The numbers break down like this: In 2012, worldwide shipments of notebooks and desktops totaled 341 million, according to Gartner. Meanwhile, tablets totaled 116 million.  

But this year, shipments of notebooks and desktops will total 315 million, and shipments of tablets will increase, to 197 million. And by 2017, Gartner predicts, shipments of tablets will far outstrip shipments of notebooks and desktops. In a press release, Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner, said the shift was the result of the ability of modern tablets to duplicate much of the PC experience. 

"While there will be some individuals who retain both a personal PC and a tablet, especially those who use either or both for work and play, most will be satisfied with the experience they get from a tablet as their main computing device," Ms. Milanesi says. "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."

As Woody Leonhard notes over at InfoWorld, there is reason to be skeptical of Gartner's figures – the analytics firm, after all, predicted in 2011 that Windows Phone would overtake iOS by 2015. More than two years since that prediction, the numbers simply do not match up. So yes, take any prediction with a grain of salt. 

But if Gartner is right about PCs? Well, that's bad news for Microsoft, the titan of the PC industry. 

"The implications of such a dramatic shift for Microsoft go beyond Windows," writes Preston Gralla at Computerworld. 

He continues:  

Revenue from Office could be threatened as well," he adds. "Office dominates traditional PCs, but isn't yet available for Android or iOS devices. Given that Google has just released Quickoffice for Android and iOS, it's not certain that Office will dominate on those platforms. Quickoffice is free for companies who use Google Apps for Business, which could eat into enterprise sales. What if Google makes it free for consumers as well – or ships it as a basic part of Android? How many people would buy Office then?

For more tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut.

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