PC sales to drop by 6 per cent in 2014

The trend of buying tablets to replace laptops will also slow, Gartner says

The global decline in sales of laptops and desktops is nothing new, and Gartner has forecast a 6 per cent drop in 2014 compared to last year -- and it envisions another decline of nearly 5 per cent in 2015.

Gartner expects 276.7 million PCs to ship to retailers in 2014, a figure that will slip further to 263 million units in 2015. In recent years, two-thirds of laptop and desktop owners have replaced their hardware with updated models; of the remaining third, most replaced their old machines with tablets and tablet hybrids, with a smaller number not buying replacements of any kind, said Ranjit Atwal, a Gartner analyst.

The trend in recent years toward replacing laptops with tablets will also decline in 2014, because both consumers and businesses will become more discriminating as they sort out "the right device for the right usage pattern," Atwal said. Kantar Worldpanel released a survey this week showing uncertainty about buying a tablet on the part of non-tablet owners in the U.S.

Even so, tablet sales are forecast to grow 38.6 per cent in 2014 to 270.7 million units globally, with faster growth coming from markets outside the U.S. where lower cost, smaller and non-branded tablets will make a difference. Gartner said that hybrid tablets will add another 37 million units to that 2014 total.

That 38 per cent jump in expected tablet sales is double the increase for 2014 that analyst firm IDC predicted earlier this month. IDC expects 214 million tablets, including 2-in-1 hybrids, to be shipped this year. IDC believes that non-branded tablet sales will slow in 2014 after years of strong growth.

Sales of Apple iPads have slowed in North America, Gartner added, but it didn't release precise data.

Gartner also said that 1.895 billion mobile phones of all types will ship in 2014. All categories of PCs, tablets, hybrids and mobile phones will reach 2.479.8 billion in 2014, up from 2.319 billion last year. That figure is expected to hit 2.627 billion in 2015.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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