Android Devices Remain on Top as Tablet Market Explodes
Gartner is not only predicting steady growth across the global IT sector this year:  It is also predicting 7.6 percent growth in device shipments in 2014. Android will dominate the operating systems (OS) market and the PC market, contrary to popular belief, will still have a slight pulse.

Device Market 2014

The figures, which appear in Gartner‘s recently published Forecast: PCs, Ultramobiles, and Mobile Phones, Worldwide, 2010-2017, 4Q13 (fee required) predicts device shipments — PCs, tablets, ultramobiles and mobile phones — will reach 2.5 billion this year.

On top of this, Android looks set to dominate. Gartner expects the OS to attract more than a billion users by the end of the year. About three in four Android users will be located in emerging markets by 2017.

Current buying trends will be dominated by mobile phones,  Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner said. But growth will be a lot slower than in the past, with buyers moving from top-end, expensive devices to mid-price devices as functionality equalizes across the board.

Mobile phones will represent the bulk of device shipments with 1.9 billion expected be shipped in 2014, an increase of 5 percent year-over-year.

However, ultramobiles —  tablets — will drive the device market with a growth rate of 54 percent. Atwal said:

Complimentary smaller tablets will take over from the larger tablet form factors, providing the added mobility that consumers desire at a lower cost and will compete with hybrids for consumer attention."

But tablets don't appear to be replacing desktop or laptop computers yet. According to Gartner, research shows most tablets are being used outside the home, similar to the way smartphones are being used.

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Death of the PC Market?

While mobile vendors may be looking forward to another prosperous year, the news for PC makers is not as encouraging. While companies like Dell and HP are still heavily involved in the PC space, there are signs the terminal decline that we saw over the course of the economic crisis is just that: Terminal.

In the past year, HP CEO Meg Whitman has reaffirmed the company's commitment to the PC market, suggesting that the decline has bottomed out. Indeed, at the end of the fourth quarter of 2013, statistics from HP showed the decline in the PC market had slowed dramatically in the second half of the year, even though sales continued to fall. During the last three months of 2013, sales from HP’s PC unit fell 2 percent.

Gartner also predicted the decline in the PC industry might have hit bottom in 2013. In a recent interview in the Wall Street Journal, Gartner analyst Tracy Tsai said the global slide in personal computer shipments would slow in the fourth quarter to a 3 percent year-over-year drop, compared with an 8.6 percent year-over-year fall in the third quarter.

Gartner’s figures in this update suggest that the PC market is moribund, despite those weak signs of life. Atwal said:

User users continue to move away from the traditional PC (notebooks and desk-based) as it becomes more of a shared content creation tool, while the greater flexibility of tablets, hybrids and lighter notebooks address users' increasingly different demands."

As a result, Gartner is predicting that worldwide shipments of traditional PCs will reach 278 million, down 7 percent from 2013.

Finally, in terms of operating systems, Android will continue to grow, reaching 1.1 billion users by the end of this year, an increase of 26 percent from 2013. However, if it has the largest number of installed-base devices (1.9 billion in use by the end of the year) its users are also buying lower-cost devices than the 682 million Apple device buyers.

Predicting sales is a risky business and Gartner is the first to point that out. However, coupled with Gartner’s predictions of a general enterprise IT reprise over the year, it does look like 2014 will be better for IT vendors than it has been for a number of years.

Title image by Oleksiy Mark (Shutterstock)