Desktops Drool, Tablets Rule

By Stephanie Blanchard, Digital Editor — December 12, 2013

Who wants to see a gift-wrapped desktop this season? If forecasts by Canalys are correct, there will be a lot of disappointed faces around the holidays if old school devices are presented with a bow. Why is that? Tablets. The analyst firm predicts that tablets are in demand, and will pretty much out ship all the other form factors combined – taking almost 50% of the total market (that’s desktops, notebooks and tablets) in 2014.

This year, Q3, tablets accounted for 40% of shipments. The projection for next year is 285 million units, growing to 396 million in 2017.

Sworn enemies Apple and Samsung continue to lead the pack. Samsung, which has been making strategic plays for the enterprise over the last few years, is the leading Android vendor. Apple added fuel to the fire with its recent launches of the iPad Air and iPad mini in time for generous gift giving and a potential strong fourth quarter. 

And while other vendors have seen share erosion, Apple’s desktop and notebook business has remained stable. But that is not expected to last forever. “Apple’s decline in PC market share is unavoidable when considering its business model,” said Tim Coulling, Senior Analyst, Canalys, in a company statement. “However, Apple is one of the few companies making money from the tablet boom. Premium products attract high value consumers; for Apple, remaining highly profitable and driving revenue from its entire ecosystem is of greater importance than market share statistics.”

For Samsung, strong year-on-year growth is a positive, and with 27% share of the tablet market in Q3, will once again be on top. The OS in general is projected to drive growth, and account for 65% share – that’s 185 million units due to Android.

Microsoft, however, will be not be left out in the cold, and will, in fact, be making a move for more. Canalys forecasts the company to take 5% of the tablet PC market in 2014, up from 2% in 2012. That’s likely due to the Nokia acquisition, and leveraging its current position in the enterprise. With new blood coming in, as CEO Steve Ballmer heads to retirement, it will also be a new day for the 38-year old company, one that started as the upstart rebellion and has since become synonymous with the enterprise (yet missed out on mobile.)

However, as Pin Chen Tang, Research Analyst, Canalys, points out: “A critical first step is to address the coexistence of Windows Phone and Windows RT. Having three different operating systems to address the smart device landscape is confusing to both developers and consumers alike.”

What about the other players? No, we’re not talking about BlackBerry. We mean Acer, Asus, Lenovo, and HP. With recent entries in the lower price points, can any of these vendors steal the crumbs?

“With the cost and time-to-market advantages afforded by their Chinese supply chain, these small-to-micro brand vendors are eating up tablet market share,” said Shanghai-based Analyst James Wang. “The rise of small-to-micro brand vendors has proved that there is a demand in for entry-level Android tablets in every country and in every region,” he added.

So, what else can be said? According to Canalys, “expect 2014 to bring a flurry of acquisitions, mergers, and failures as PC hardware vendors of all sizes struggle to maintain their desktop and notebook business while attempting to capitalize on a tablet market that will see great volumes driving limited value.”


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