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Jan 05 2015

Gartner Forecast Shows Moderate Growth Rates for Consumer IT

Gartner researchers have confirmed and extended their forecast from last October that the 'tablet craze' of the past four years will eventually subside, with total market growth reaching one-digit levels. In addition, they predict a slight recovery in the PC segment.

Tablet PC enthusiasts all over the world may not be too happy with research firm Gartner's latest consumer device market forecast for the upcoming year. In it, the company bluntly states that "the global tablet market is not returning to the levels of growth seen in the last four years as demand for tablets will continue to be slow in 2015." However, slow is a relative term and only makes sense in comparison to the baffling double-digit growth rates of previous years – in total, Gartner still estimates that global tablet sales will reach 233 million units this year, which would mark a solid 8% increase over the 216 million units allegedly sold in 2014.

According to Ranjit Atwal, Research Director in Gartner's Consumer team, "the steep drop can be explained by several factors." Probably the most important one is that, unlike in recent years, tablet users are less likely to buy new gear whenever it's offered – or, as Atwal puts it, "that the lifetime of tablets is being extended – they are shared out amongst family members and software upgrades, especially for iOS devices, keep the tablets current." Likewise, he noted that a "lack of innovation in hardware" keeps customers from upgrading – a finding that would indicate that current tablet processor platforms cannot provide the power and functionality consumers are looking for.

Apart from this friendly but serious warning, Gartner researchers also have positive forecasts to offer. Number one is that mobile phone sales are "on pace" to reach 1.9 billion units by the end of the year, which would mean a 3.7% increase over 2014. What's more, if mobile phones continue to be adopted at the current rate, sales could hit the 2 billion threshold in 2016. However, according to Atwal's colleague Annette Zimmermann "the smartphone market is becoming polarized between the high- end low-end market price points." In other words, Gartner expects reasonable growth rates in the segment of "premium phones" with an average 2014 sales price of $447 as well as that of "basic phone[s]" with a $100 price tag, whereas "the market opportunity is becoming increasingly limited" for midrange models. While this prognosis is vastly in line with those of previous years, the second positive forecast comes rather unexpected: Gartner's market observers also see the total PC market grow by 1% in 2015, from 318 to 321 million units sold. This includes a further decrease in the "traditional PC" (i.e. desktop and notebook) segment, which they think will drop to 259 million units (minus 7%), but will be outweighed by a boost in "Ultramobile Premium" systems, e.g. ultrabooks and the likes, which could jump from 39 to 62 million units sold – a 59% increase. In total, Gartner expects worldwide combined shipments of devices (PCs, tablets, ultramobiles and mobile phones) to reach roughly 2.5 billion units in 2015, an increase of 3.9 percent from last year's 2.38 billion. Gartner offers largely identical figures for the OS market; here, Android will continue to rule with 1.45 billion devices shipped, whereas devices powered by various editions of iOS/Mac OS and Windows will come in at 279 million and 355 million units respectively.

As per usual, the problem with such forecasts is that they are forecasts. Right now, there is no telling in which way product and OS upgrades that are due over the next 12 months – especially the release of Windows 10 – might affect future sales. More detailed information is available here if you have a Gartner account and are willing to pay a four-digit amount.


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