Tablet Shipments To Be Neck-And-Neck With PCs By 2014: Gartner

Tablet shipments continue to rise and are expected to be almost in line with PC shipments by 2014, according to a Gartner report issued Monday.

According to Gartner, tablet shipments will grow 67.9 percent to reach 202 million units by the end of the year. As the forecast for the number of desktops and notebooks shipped worldwide is expected to drop 10.6 percent from last year, Gartner's projections put tablet sales neck-and-neck with PCs by 2014 -- with an estimated 289 million PCs shipped compared to about 276 million tablets.

Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner, said that mobility is "paramount" to established and developing markets alike. "Consumers want anytime-anywhere computing that allows them to consume and create content with ease, but also share and access that content from a different portfolio of products," Milanesi said.

[Related: Tablets Will Surpass PC Shipments By 2017: Gartner ]

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Gartner's estimates are based in part on a drop in PC sales recorded for the first quarter of the year, which the Stamford, Conn.-based research firm said is the result of a change in buyer needs and preferences as well as market adjustments in anticipation of new products announced for the latter part of the year.

Robert Robinson, vice president of Computer Upgrade King, a Powhatan, Va.-based VAR, said he's felt the shift in the industry. "We are noticing an increase in demand with tablets, and we are not alone, as the Amazon Best Seller rankings certainly show that tablets are becoming the most popular computers on the market today," Robinson said.

Amazon's list is ranked by revenue, and tablets don't accumulate as much profit per unit as a "traditional computer," Robinson said, which goes to show the "volume" of tablets being sold.

"When we listed a popular Asus and Lenovo tablet on Amazon, ... all 50+ of our stock on both models sold out in a matter of a day, if not hours," Robinson said. "If it wasn't for the slim margin on tablet sales, we would focus much of our energies on selling them. As it stands though, most of the money to be made by resellers is in the bundled services."

Because of this discrepancy, Robinson said many distributors like Tech Data's TDMobility group are "providing assistance to those resellers wishing to bundle services in with tablet sales."

Gartner also noted an increase in demand for "ultramobiles," such as Chromebooks and other upgraded or "premium" tablets such as the iPad, Galaxy Tab 10.1 and those running Windows 8, which feature a "light clamshell design."

The tech research company said the numbers should be more solidified later this year when new Intel processors combined with Windows 8.1 hit the market.

NEXT: Contributing Factors To Tablet Growth

Phil Mogavero, vice president of Strategic Technology at PCM, formerly PC Mall, an El Segundo, Calif.-based IT solutions and services company, said he's "definitely" seen a move to more portable devices.

"I see that as a growing phenomenon, especially with Windows 8 and convertible tablets ... since you can move between desktop and notepad [functionality]," Mogavero said. "People use their device all the time, whether they're connected or not connected. In my opinion there's a diminished need for a desktop device ... because of notepads that are convertible."

Robert Nitrio, CEO of Ranvest Associates, an Orangevale, Calif.-based solution provider, said he thinks the desktop will remain the "primary device to produce work," despite the rise in tablet shipments.

"Because tablets are fairly small, tablets are mobile, ... but when it comes to actually doing things, working on spreadsheets, editing videos, ... the computer still has a greater functionality," Nitrio said, "So you can't really compare desktops to tablets. Tablets are taking over in a mobility sense, but not where there's a fixed infrastructure."

Another tech industry shift Gartner noted is the movement to more "basic" tablets like the iPad Mini, which represented 60 percent of all iOS sales in the first quarter of the year.

Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner, said that this trend has more to do with availability and software. "The increased availability of lower priced basic tablets, plus the value add shifting to software rather than hardware will result in the lifetimes of premium tablets extending as they remain active in the household for longer," Atwal said.

Similarly, the vast options among tablet operating systems coupled with lower costs and the ability to expand storage via the cloud makes tablets an ideal option for today's market, said Robinson of Computer Upgrade King.

"Tablet operating systems such as Android (ARM), Windows RT, and Apple's iOS now have a very comprehensive selection of applications to choose from and the limitations such as storage capacity that used to turn away customers is now a non-factor as the cloud provides storage in addition to application support," Robinson said.

As the BYOD movement gains momentum, Gartner predicts that 72 percent of computing devices will be consumer bought by 2017 -- a 12 percent increase over the number of consumer-owned devices in 2013.

Nitrio said that it's about what device serves the needs of the user in a particular situation.

"[End Users] might have several devices to serve different needs. In the office, a user might prefer to work on a desktop because it has a bigger screen," Nitrio said. "In the field, a tablet might be all they need, ... and when they're really mobile, all they might need is a decent-sized smartphone."

In regard to the rise in tablet shipments, cloud computing has played an important role, Robinson said.

"The move toward cloud computing has certainly breathed life into tablet sales since application developers are focusing their efforts on building strong applications to support mobile devices," Robinson said. "And the cloud has enabled them to build more robust applications that are cross-platform accessible while providing the same functionality as traditional Windows-based applications."