Tablets and Android drive Post-PC world (but ignore Apple's ecosystem at your peril)

The post-PC era continues to see tablets and smartphones drive overall growth, researchers claim, with traditional PC shipments predicted to decline more than 10-percent this year. 2013 sales of computing hardware – including tablets, smartphones, and PCs – are expected to grow 5.9-percent year on year in 2013, Gartner calculates, but that will be predominantly down to slates, it's argued. In fact, compared to 2012, tablet sales are expected to jump almost 68-percent.

Smartphone sales will also climb, though by a smaller amount, with Gartner pegging the rise at 4.3-percent. They're still by far the most common device, however, with 2013 seeing more than 1.8bn shipped. That's more than nine times the number of tablets in the same twelve month period.

Slates will continue to grow more aggressively, however, in 2014, with Gartner estimating shipments of more than 276m overall. However, there could be a sting in the tail, with cheaper models – like Google's Nexus 7 line, and Apple's iPad mini – sweeping up customers that might once have opted for more expensive, larger tablets.

The saving grace for the more traditional PC industry will be what the research firm describes as "ultramobile" devices. These – including ultrabooks, Chromebooks, and thin-and-lights, as well as slates and hybrids that run Windows 8 – will be particularly attractive to those looking to upgrade from full-sized Android and iOS tablets, Gartner predicts, claiming that sales in the segment will almost double between 2013 and 2014.

Windows 8.1, along with Intel's Haswell-based fourth-gen Core processors – as in the 2013 MacBook Air we reviewed this weekend – will meanwhile prompt a surge in ultrabook and ultraportable sales in the latter half of the year, it's said. Although sheer numbers aren't expected to change much, the new technology should help drive average selling price up.

As for OS, there are some familiar numbers but unexpected conclusions. Android continues to hold its lead overall, something expected to continue in 2014, while Windows is tipped to see more minor growth. iOS and OS X will grow, it's suggested, but still hold third place behind Microsoft's platforms.

However, Gartner argues that the raw numbers don't tell the whole story. "Although the numbers seem to paint a clear picture of who the winner will be when it comes to operating systems in the device market," research VP Carolina Milanes said of the stats, "the reality is that today ecosystem owners are challenged in having the same relevance in all segments."

For instance, Apple's numbers may be lower, but it is spread more homogeneously across phones, tablets, and computing. In contrast, 90-percent of Android's footprint is in smartphones; at the opposite extreme, 85-percent of Microsoft's sales are in PCs.

Given the increasing importance of having an ecosystem of joined-up parts, that could arguably leave Apple in a more preferable position despite the smaller userbase overall.