The latest Gartner figures predict that 2014 will be marked by a relative revival of the global PC market, partly driven by the popularity of a new type of device, the ultramobiles. Meanwhile smartphone sales continue to do well.

ICTs: the devices market in the age of pluralism

Although sales of PCs have been declining over the last few years, the latest figures from information technology research and advisory company Gartner – ‘Forecast: PCs, Ultramobiles and Mobile Phones, Worldwide, 2011-2018, 2Q14 Update’ – indicate that a renewal of the range is likely to revive this market segment to some extent. The revival is mainly being driven by devices Gartner terms ‘ultramobiles’, a segment that is providing manufacturers with a growth channel to help stem the seemingly irreversible decline in the market overall.  The Gartner analysts believe that by 2015 overall PC sales – defined as desk-based, notebook and premium ultramobile – will rise again, reaching their 2013 level of 315 million units sold worldwide. Positioned midway between the lightweight tablet and the multi-use PC, ultramobiles are enjoying great popularity, with the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and Apple’s MacBook Air out in front.

The laborious conquest of the PC market

The surge of ultramobiles runs counter to earlier predictions that the digital tablet would prove to be the clear and unrivalled successor to the PC. In fact Gartner’s figures do not suggest that PCs will be completely replaced by tablets but rather demonstrate the emergence of an ultramobile market. For the moment sales of ultramobiles account for a mere 10% of the overall PC market but sales are predicted to grow by a highly encouraging 40% between 2014 and 2015. As regards tablets – an early adopter tool – sales are gradually stabilising now that tablets are becoming a standard item. In 2015, tablet sales are still forecast to overtake PCs. However, Gartner Research Director Ranjit Atwal points out that penetration of tablets in emerging markets has been squeezed by the ‘phablet’, a phone-tablet hybrid device. As regards tablets, “the next wave of adoption will be driven by lower price points rather than superior functionality,” predicts Atwal.

Smartphone still core equipment for connected economies

Meanwhile the mobile phone market, which accounts for 75% of worldwide sales volume for all ICT devices, is undergoing change as the smartphone takes over from other types of mobile telephone to become the norm.  Smartphones are making great inroads into both mature and emerging markets as prices continue to fall. Gartner estimates that smartphone sales will represent 88% of global mobile phone sales by 2018 – up from 66% in 2014.  Within the mobile device markets, three operating systems – Google’s Android, Apple’s iOS and Microsoft’s Windows – are competing for the manufacturers’ custom.  Gartner predicts that iOS-based devices will stabilise at 10% of the global smartphone market, compared with 40% for devices running on Android. Manufacturers using the Android system, including notably South Korean giant Samsung, are the largest suppliers of smartphones, underlining Google’s dominant position in the worldwide digital economy. With an increase in sales now plateauing at 6% per year, the mobile phone sector has ended up turning the smartphone into an essential factor in the growth of emerging economies and the number one device helping to organise people’s everyday lives in developed countries.