At Current Pace, Tablets Will Outsell PCs By Q2 2014

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The PC market is in poor health, and consumers love tablets. When do those two trends cross? No prediction is perfect, but given simple trend analysis, it appears that by the second quarter of 2014, tablets will likely outsell the PC market.

That said, current market dynamics could accelerate, pushing us over that mark a bit sooner. Let’s get into the figures to untangle just where we stand.

The Next Web’s Emil Protalinksi broke down the most recent tablet sales figures, using data served by Strategy Analytics. The rough picture is that in the second quarter of 2012, according to the firm’s analysis, 51.7 million tablets were shipped globally. That figure is up from 36.1 million in the second quarter of 2012.

How does that compare to the vanilla PC market? As was reported at the time, second-quarter PC shipments totaled around 76 million units. Other estimates had the figure at 75.5 million, but that’s close enough for this sort of comparison.

The simple story is that the PC market is slipping, down 11 percent year over year in the most recent quarter, while tablets are up sharply. In the past year, from the second quarter of 2012 to the second quarter of 2013, tablet shipments were up around 43 percent. Much of that growth was in the Android segment, it’s worth noting. Microsoft managed to put marks on the board as well, but as Apple’s tablet products find market saturation, Android appears to be the key growth platform for the touch-computing niche.

IDC raised its recent PC market decline prediction from 1.3 percent for 2013 to 7.8 percent. That still feels optimistic. Here are some simple numbers: Assuming that the PC market declines another 11 percent in the coming year, and the tablet market manages, let’s say, 30 percent growth in the next 12 months, we end up with 67.6 million shipped PCs and 67.2 million shipped tablets. Those numbers presume that tablet growth slows in the next four quarters compared to earlier rates.

In a separate estimate, IDC concludes that tablet shipments will grow as much as 59 percent in calendar 2013. At that pace, and assuming that the PC market doesn’t dramatically improve, the lines simply meet sooner. At current tally, IDC itself predicts tablets will overtake PCs in 2015, but their PC estimates in that case feel far too optimistic, though Microsoft would prefer them.

PC shipments were down 14 percent year over year in the first quarter of 2013, and 11 percent down the next. That trend is north of painful.

So even assuming that tablet growth is slower than IDC expects, and that PC shipments simply continue their current pace of decline, by the second quarter of 2014, tablets and PCs will ship similar unit volumes. We’re not post-PC yet, but we are certainly almost at PC-tablet parity, and that’s a real market change.

Top Image Credit: Cameron Norman