PC market poised to improve (by shrinking slower than expected)

A new report out from technology research firm Gartner says global PC shipments will improve in 2014 even as more people transition to tablets and mobile devices for their computing needs. 

(Kathy Willens/AP)
A member of the media tries out a new Samsung Galaxy Tab S after the tablet's debut at a press conference in New York, Thursday, June 12, 2014.

It's looking like 2014 will be a slightly better year for the PC market. 

Technology research firm Gartner said Monday in a new report that global PC shipments will decrease less than they did in 2013. 

"2014 will be marked by a relative revival of the global PC market," says Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner, in a release. 

The report says the global PC market is "on pace to contract only 2.9 percent in 2014." That's an improvement from a 9.5 percent decrease in 2013, the report states. In its assessment of the global PC market, Gartner includes desktops, notebooks, and "premium ultramobile" devices. 

"Business upgrades from Windows XP and the general business replacement cycle will lessen the downward trend, especially in Western Europe," adds Mr. Atwal in the release. "This year, we anticipate nearly 60 million professional PC replacements in mature markets."

The report says traditional PCs, such as desktop computers, will continue to decrease in shipments by 2015. 

Worldwide PC shipments are decreasing as more people transition to mobile phones and tablets. As such, shipments of mobile phones and tablets are projected to increase steadily through 2015. The report qualifies its prediction of tablets, however, by noting that growth in tablet sales will slow in 2014. This is due in part because the tablet market has passed the initial phase of adoption as well as because people are increasingly using "phablets" or smart phones with large screens. And as tablet sales continue, people will be increasingly swayed by cheaper devices as opposed to those with "superior functionality," the report states. 

The wide variety of devices available on the market is unlikely to sway the majority of consumers toward one device or another. Rather, people will likely own multiple devices and switch between them as needed, according to Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa. 

"[People] will use different type of devices depending on what they do and where they are," Mr. Kitagawa says in an e-mail. "In the last 2-3 years, lots of buyers bought tablets in addition to owning PCs. Although there are buyers who only use tablets and do not use PCs any longer, the majority of users use both PCs and tablets. We believe this will be the most likely trend in the next five years."

He says that while phablets are still relatively new on the market, there will also be a "combination of device ownership" when it comes to the large smart phones. Some people, for example, will use their phablet as a smart phone and as a tablet. While others may prefer to own both a smart phone and a tablet, he says, noting that device preference will vary depending on country, gender, age group, and income. 

But regardless of people's combination of devices, they will likely be using a smart phone. By 2018, smart phones are expected to comprise 88 percent of global mobile phone sales. 

Android and iOS are the top operating systems. Android saw a 30-percent increase between 2013 and 2014, while iOS saw a 15 percent increase. 

"We expect the announcement of the new Apple iPhone 6 will attract pent-up demand for users who want a larger screen," says Annette Zimmermann, research director at Gartner, in the release. "Windows phones will exhibit strong growth from a low base in 2014, and are projected to reach a 10 percent market share by 2018 — up from 4 percent in 2014."

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