Two sequential research reports paint a stark – if you’re a Microsoft exec or an Apple fan – picture of how the personal computer and digital device market is evolving. A Gartner Inc. report dated March 3rd found that “Worldwide Tablet Sales Grew 68 Percent in 2013, With Android Capturing 62 Percent of the Market,” and with a conspicuous year-on-year market share decline for Apple. A day later, on March 4th, International Data Corporation (IDC) released its findings that PC market shipments are expected ” to Fall by -6% in 2014 and Decline Through 2018.”
The Gartner figures show Apple’s iOS-based tablet market share based on sales falling from 52.8 percent for 2012 to 36 percent for 2013. Android’s market share rose over the same period from 45.8 percent to 61.9 percent. Microsoft, meanwhile, despite all the effort put into making Windows 8 a tablet-friendly OS, grew its tablet market share from 1 percent to only 2.1 percent.
“In 2013, tablets became a mainstream phenomenon, with a vast choice of Android-based tablets being within the budget of mainstream consumers while still offering adequate specifications,” said Roberta Cozza, research director at Gartner. As for Microsoft, she added, “to compete, Microsoft needs to create compelling ecosystem proposition for consumers and developers across all mobile devices, as tablets and smartphones become key devices for delivering applications and services to users beyond the PC.”
This, presumably, is where strategy in the broader PC market comes in. But the IDC Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker reported “the most severe contraction on record,” with contraction in emerging markets demand, allied to “continued pressure from tablets and smartphones,” as the key culprits. According to Loren Loverde, Vice President, Worldwide PC Trackers, emerging markets will “recover in the medium term and perform better than mature regions, but growth is expected to stabilize near zero percent, rather than driving increasing volumes as we saw in the past.” Portable and desktop PC form factors show little differentiation, with both declining more or less in step.
Of course this doesn’t mean that the PC or the desktop form factors are going to disappear overnight. But it does suggest how hard it is going to be for Android’s competitors to provide compelling alternatives – which in Microsoft’s case is something of a shame, now that its OS and device offerings are looking like a genuine alternative. But probably too little too late.