Global shipments of PCs, tablets, ultramobiles and mobile phones are projected to remain flat in 2017, according to a new report from Gartner. Total shipments are expected to hit 2.3 billion in 2017, the same as 2016.
There were a huge number of phones, tablets and PCs in use in the world by the end of 2016 – seven billion to be precise – but the research firm doesn't expect any growth in shipments of traditional devices until 2018 when a small increase in ultramobiles and mobile phone shipments is expected.
"The global devices market is stagnating. Mobile phone shipments are only growing in emerging Asia/Pacific markets, and the PC market is just reaching the bottom of its decline," said Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner.
"As well as declining shipment growth for traditional devices, average selling prices are also beginning to stagnate because of market saturation and a slower rate of innovation," added Atwal. "Consumers have fewer reasons to upgrade or buy traditional devices. They are seeking fresher experiences and applications in emerging categories such as head mounted displays (HMDs), virtual personal assistant (VPA) speakers and wearables."
Worldwide Devices Shipments by Device Type, 2016-2019 (Millions of Units)
Traditional PCs (Desk-Based and Notebook)
Ultramobiles (Basic and Utility)
Computing Devices Market
Total Devices Market
Note: The Ultramobile (Premium) category includes devices such as Microsoft Windows 10 Intel x86 products and Apple MacBook Air.
The Ultramobile (Basic and Utility Tablets) category includes devices such as Apple iPad and iPad mini, Samsung Galaxy Tab S2, Amazon Fire HD, Lenovo Yoga Tab 3, and Acer Iconia One.
Source: Gartner (January 2017)
This will do nothing to allay the concerns of the PC market that is currently in the longest period of decline in its history. Gartner however notes that the market will benefit from a replacement cycle toward the end of this forecast period, returning to growth in 2018. The traditional PC's decline will be complemented by the growth of ultramobile devices that are becoming more functional, affordable and attractive to consumers.
The mobile phone market will also benefit from replacements. There is, however, a difference in replacement activity between mature and emerging markets. "People in emerging markets still see smartphones as their main computing device and replace them more regularly than mature markets," said Atwal.
Device vendors are increasingly trying to move into faster-growing emerging device categories. "This requires a shift from a hardware-focused approach to a richer value-added service approach," stated Atwal. "As service-led approaches become even more crucial, hardware providers will have to partner with service providers, as they lack the expertise to deliver the service offerings themselves."