Gartner: Low-cost devices set to dominate worldwide market

Gartner’s device market research reveals low-cost devices are beginning to drive the industry, as PC sales continue to dwindle

Changing content consumption models and buying habits mean low-priced smartphones, tablets and ultramobile hybrids are beginning to drive the global device market this year, according to new figures from Gartner.

The analyst house has just released worldwide device market stats for 2013, suggesting that the overall market will grow by 4.5% this year to 2.32bn units.

However as traditional PC shipments continue to decline – by 11.2% to 303m units this year, says Gartner – mobile phones and tablets are taking up the slack in a big way, up 3.7% to 1.8bn and 53.4% to 184m units respectively.

Through 2014, PC shipments look set to continue to decline, falling to an estimated 281.6m next year, while the ultramobile segment will enjoy healthy expansion from 18.6m units in 2013 to 39.9m in 2014. Tablets look set to go to 263.2m units next year, and mobile phones, 1.9bn.

In the remaining months of 2013, Gartner suggested that smaller form factor tablets would be the device of choice for the Christmas market, and although vendors are pushing ultramobiles, the punters do not yet seem to be biting yet.

Ranjit Atwal, Gartner research director, explained: “Although the preference is for dedicated devices, we see the opportunity for hybrid ultramobile to marry the functionality of a PC and the form factor of the tablet. Users that have to balance work and play will find that the advantage of buying and carrying one device outweighs the compromise in the full experience that single devices can deliver.

“Users who are not limited by their disposable income will likely have a basic tablet as a companion device to their ultramobile on which most of their consumption activities will take place,” he concluded.

On the mobile side, Gartner expects the opportunity for high ASP smartphones to dwindle, with mid-tier and low-end devices – particularly Androids, gaining ground. The analysts forecast that Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia would not have a major impact on the forecast.

Gartner’s Carolina Milanesi said: “Windows Phone challenges in the smartphone market remain the same, with the need to bring on board more developers and enrich the ecosystem, as well as turning the Windows Phone brand into a cool smartphone brand. While there are clear benefits to the acquisition, such as channel strength, carrier relationship and emerging-market knowledge, the brand and ecosystem do not directly benefit from it.”

Sticking with Microsoft, Gartner predicted that the end of Windows XP support in 2014 would be unlikely to impact device sales much, claiming that 90% of large enterprises are either already off the OS, or are in the process of migrating onto replacements.

Windows will fall increasingly behind Android in terms of device operating systems this year, although it may return to some growth in 2014. The two other leading device operating systems remain iOS/MacOS and RIM.

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