PC, Tablet, Smartphone Shipments to Top 2.4 Billion in 2013: Gartner

Device shipments are forecast to continue to grow, reaching more than 2.9 billion units in 2017.

The proliferation of lower-priced tablets and their growing capability is accelerating the shift from PCs to tablets, while worldwide shipments for those two types of devices, as well as mobile phones, is expected to reach 2.4 billion units, according to a report from IT research firm Gartner.

Device shipments are forecast to continue to grow, reaching more than 2.9 billion units in 2017, but the report noted that as consumer preferences change and users turn towards different types of technology, the mix of these device shipments is expected to shift “significantly” between now and 2017. There is already evidence of this occurring, as the traditional PC market of notebooks and desk-based units is expected to decline 7.6 percent in 2013.

"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," Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner, said in a statement. "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."

Beginning this year, ultramobiles—a PC platform characterized by touch-screen displays and extremely thin hardware--will help offset this decline in PCs, so that sales of traditional PCs and ultramobiles combined show a 3.5 percent decline in 2013. Meanwhile, worldwide tablet shipments are forecast to total 197 million units in 2013, a whopping 69.8 percent increase from 2012 shipments of 116 million units, thanks in part to growing consumer awareness and improved capabilities.

"Lower prices, form factor variety, cloud update and consumers' addiction to apps will be the key drivers in the tablet market," Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner, said in a statement. "Growth in the tablet segment will not be limited to mature markets alone. Users in emerging markets who are looking for a companion to their mobile phone will increasingly choose a tablet as their first computing device and not a PC."

Smartphones are also becoming more affordable, driving adoption in emerging markets and the prepay segment in mature markets. Of the 1.875 billion mobile phones to be sold in 2013, 1 billion units will be smartphones, compared with 675 million units in 2012. Price erosion in the table market is also expected to boost worldwide shipments of iPads, Kindle Fire devices and other, low-cost tablets.

"The trend towards smartphones and tablets will have much wider implications than hardware displacement," Milanesi said. "Software and chipset architecture are also impacted by this shift as consumers embrace apps and personal cloud."