Smartphone sales will overtake laptop sales this year, causing PC makers to look to this rapidly developing market, according to a new report by Gartner. The analyst firm predicts that all major PC vendors will break into the smartphone market by the year’s end. Smartphone sales will grow 29 percent, reaching 180 million units sold year-over-year in 2009. While smartphones make up only 14 percent of the mobile device market, they will account for 37 percent of sales in 2012, with revenue reaching $191 billion. PC sales, on the other hand, are forecast to only reach $152 billion in 2012. As PC vendors move into this increasingly competitive market, they will be navigating in a very different market.

“PC vendors will find it difficult to simply use existing supply chains and channels to expand their presence in the smartphone market. The smartphone and notebook markets are governed by different rules when it comes to successfully marketing and selling products,” said Gartner analyst Roberta Cozza.

The main challenges PC vendors will face when entering the market are that specs are less important than with PCs but brand and user experience are more important; that the distribution channels are controlled by mobile vendors; that mobile vendors will have a significantly better understanding of the market; and that corporate smartphone decisions will be out of the hands of the IT manager.

“Understanding of mobile consumer behaviours, competitiveness and positioning of their mobile products and relationships with carriers are all barriers that cannot be overcome in the short term,” Cozza said.

“This will limit any PC vendor presence in the smartphone market to low single digits for some time,” Cozza said.

By Mathieu Ramage