The PC market will continue to contract this year, and by next year, tablet shipments will outpace PCs, according to analysts from Gartner.
However, despite the falling number of shipments in 2014, the outlook for PCs in the near-term looks good, the analysts said in a report July 7. The PC market sustained a significant decline in shipments in 2013—a 9.5 percent drop from 2013—but that will slow to a 2.9 percent reduction this year, according to the Gartner numbers.
In 2015, the number of PC shipments—which include traditional desktops and notebooks as well as premium ultramobile systems—will climb to almost 317 million units, up about 2.9 percent from this year and almost equaling the number of units shipped in 2013. Much of that will come in the commercial PC space, according to Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner.
"2014 will be marked by a relative revival of the global PC market," Antwal said in a statement. "Business upgrades from Windows XP and the general business replacement cycle will lessen the downward trend, especially in Western Europe. This year, we anticipate nearly 60 million professional PC replacements in mature markets."
The Gartner forecast reflects what vendors and some other analysts have been seeing over the first half of 2014. Intel officials, when announcing first-quarter financial numbers in April, said they were seeing its PC business begin to stabilize after a few years of decline. In the first quarter, revenues for Intel's PC business fell only 1 percent over the same time last year, and last month, company officials said demand for business PCs was stronger than expected, boosting Intel's financial forecast for the rest of the year.
PC demand is important for Intel, which—despite aggressive moves into new growth areas—still gets more than half of its revenues from PC chip sales. Talking with analysts and journalists in April, CEO Brian Krzanich said Microsoft's ending of support for the aged Windows XP operating system in April helped force businesses and consumers to refresh their systems. However, Krzanich also noted other factors, including new form factors being touted by Intel and OEMs, such as two-in-one convertible systems, falling prices of new systems and an aging PC installed base.
"So it's a combination of factors that's really driving the stabilization" of the PC market, he said.
Others also are seeing a rebound in the PC market. Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst with Moor Insights and Strategy, told eWEEK he expects that upswing to hit in 2015 in both commercial and consumer PC segments for such reasons as consumers seeing performance climb while prices fall, and businesses also seeing improvements in price/performance and refreshing their fleets as they migrate away from Windows XP.
According to Gartner's numbers, the new form factors noted by Krzanich will play a role in the PC revival next year. The number of ultramobile and other such systems shipped will jump from 32.2 million this year to more than 55 in 2015, while shipments of traditional PCs will fall from more than 276 million in 2014 to 261.6 million next year.
While PCs will see a long-awaited rebound in 2015, shipments of tablets and mobile phones will continue to grow. Tablet shipments will jump from more than 256 million this year to almost 321 million in 2015, with mobile phones growing from more than 1.8 billion in 2014 to more than 1.9 billion next year. Smartphones will increasingly make up the bulk of mobile phone shipments, accounting for 88 percent of all mobile phone sales worldwide by 2018, up from 66 percent this year, the analysts said.
Gartner's Atwal noted that the tablet market continues to mature. The result will be a relative slowing of tablet sales this year, still, it will be a 23.9 percent increase from 2013, he said. In mature markets, demand for larger screens is increasing, while a transition toward "phablets" in such regions as Southeast Asia also is eating into tablet sales.
"The next wave of adoption will be driven by lower price points, rather than superior functionality," he said.