BOOMING SALES of smartphones and tablets will be led by the Android operating system this year, but hardware growth will hampered by the ongoing slump in the PC market, analyst outfit Gartner has predicted.
Android is expected to lead shipments of devices in 2014, with Gartner projecting that shipments of Android phones, tablets and PCs will hit 1.17 billion this year, rising to 1.36 billion in 2015.
This will be 884 million more shipments than Apple can manage for all its Mac machines plus iPads and iPhones. However, Mac and iOS are also expected to see strong growth from 241 million devices shipped last year to 286 million in 2014 and then 324 million in 2015.
This huge difference in shipment volumes might help explain why Apple is demanding $40 in royalties from Samsung for each Android smartphone it sells. However it's worth noting that Samsung is only one Android vendor and the Google mobile OS is used by an army of vendors as opposed to iOS, which is shipped only by Apple.
While the worldwide tablet market continues to expand and is forecast to grow 38.6 percent - the biggest year over year increase of all smart device sales - Gartner expects the combined shipments of PCs, tablets and mobile phones to increase just 6.9 percent compared to 2013, due to the continuing slump in PC sales.
Gartner said total device shipments in 2013 hit 2.32 billion, and are on target to rise to 2.48 billion in 2014. It expects shipments to further increase in 2015 to 2.63 billion, with smartphones and tablets leading the growth.
Tablet shipments will leap from 195 million in 2013 to 271 million in 2014, then 349 million in 2015, and mobile phone shipments are expected to hit 1.89 billion in 2014 and 1.95 billion in 2015. By contrast PC sales will fall from 296 million in 2013 to 277 million in 2014 and then 263 million in 2015, as PC makers like Dell, Acer and HP will continue to face a tough market.
Gartner research director Ranjit Atwal said that the PC market is set to decline even further as the markets for tablet and notebook devices continue to evolve to meet the specific needs of buyers.
"We are seeing an expansion of the categories to fill in the gaps between tablets and notebooks as users start to assess their needs around productivity, content creation and input," he said.
"People are starting to realise that perhaps they don't want five different devices but would instead prefer having one or two that can meet their needs more effectively."
Atwal said that this will provide opportunities for hardware makers to sell more devices with features such as keyboards, but it will also pose challenges for knowing where to place their efforts in development of new products.
"I don't think vendors are really getting their heads around the transformation at the moment and how to market their devices," he added.
Microsoft is still suffering from branding and marketing issues around Windows 8, Atwal said, because people don't see it as a true consumer oriented product, which is what many people look for when buying. µ