Lower-Priced Tablets Nibbling Away at PC Sales, But PCs Aren’t Going Anywhere

The latest PC sales numbers and accompanying predictions from research firm Gartner show an unsurprising trend: tablet sales will continue to rise sharply at the expense of traditional desktops and notebooks.

“While there will be some individuals who retain both a personal PC and a tablet...most will be satisfied with the experience they get from a tablet as their main computing device," said Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner. She further noted that many consumers will stop replacing their PCs, because they simply won’t be essential anymore.

Gartner PC sales

As you can see from the chart, Gartner expects traditional PC sales to drop from 341 million units in 2012 to 271 million in 2017, which is a 7.6 percent decline. At the same time, tablet sales will shoot up from 116 million to nearly half a billion. Sales of ultramobiles and smartphones will continue to trend upward, too.

Some will see this and assume that it means the end is nigh for the PC, but they’d be wrong. First, tablets are PCS, and increasing numbers of them run full (or nearly full) versions of desktop operating systems. Second, the need for computing of all kinds is only increasing, so there will always be a need for higher-power machines such as ultrabooks, desktop replacement notebooks, and powerful desktops. Further, the concept of a family PC seems to be returning with the advent of all-in-one PCs, which offer efficiency in terms of space and family-friendly features such as touchscreens and multiple ways of orienting the display.

Dell Latitude 10
This Dell Latitude 10 tablet is also a PC

What we’re seeing with the above trend is that mobile devices--particularly tablets--satisfy the basic computing needs of most users. In fact, tablets are better computing devices than laptops and desktops for social networking, reading news and blogs, streaming video, and the other online miscellany everyone engages in on a regular basis. Aside from typing out long missive, even email is excellent on a tablet.

It’s also important to note that sales of “ultramobiles” will grow, which will offset declining desktop and notebook numbers. Desktops and notebooks are not dying; they’re just becoming more specialized computing devices.