Forget the economy, the PC slump is here to stay warns Gartner

Tablets and smartphones will squash traditional PC and laptop sales in a trend that looks unlikely to slow down any time soon, analysts predict, with demand for cheaper, more approachable slates hiding a slump in the PC market. In fact, Gartner expects a 7.6-percent dive in PC and notebook sales in 2013 alone, despite combined shipments of PCs, tablets, and phones expected to climb 9-percent in the same period.

"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," Gartner research VP Carolina Milanesi said of the stats, "most will be satisfied with the experience they get from a tablet as their main computing device."

That satisfaction means existing PCs are far less likely to get replaced, whereas once they might have been regularly updated. Whereas many vendors have blamed the global recession for underwhelming sales, Gartner argues that, in fact, it's a sign of far more complex changes. "This is not a temporary trend induced by a more austere economic environment" the firm warns, "it is a reflection of a long-term change in user behavior."

By 2017, Gartner expects PC and notebook shipments to have dwindled to 272m units, down from 341m in 2012. That will be partially offset, the analysts predict, by what it calls "ultramobile" – ultraportables and ultrabooks – shipments, which are tipped to more than quadruple between 2013 and 2017, to 96m units worldwide.

Headed in the opposite direction are tablet and phone shipments. Gartner estimates 197m tablet shipments in 2013, rising to 266m the following year, and then surging to 468m in 2017. Phones, meanwhile, will go from 1.9bn this year, to 2.1bn in 2017.

As for what OS will be reaping the rewards, Android is singled out as the likely top candidate. Apple and Microsoft will tussle for second place, it's suggested, with Windows tipped to maintain a lead over iOS/OS X through to 2017.