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Apple Inc. (AAPL), Google Inc (GOOG), Microsoft Corporation (MSFT): The Tablet Will Overtake the PC Sooner Than You Think

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The PC market may be struggling, but the broader computing device market is doing just fine. When factoring in all form factors, Gartner Inc (NYSE:IT) now expects the total market to grow to 2.5 billion units by next year. That would be up from the 2.2 billion devices shipped last year, and the 2.35 billion units expected to get a move on in 2013.

Gartner Inc (NYSE:IT)

Smartphones and tablets are easily driving all of that growth, as traditional PC form factors are expected to continue a downward trend. As one of the youngest form factors, tablets should put up the impressive growth and soar to 276 million next year. That’s a subset of the market that effectively didn’t exist at the beginning of 2010 until Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) jump-started the tablet renaissance with the iPad. Mobile computing has become incredibly important in both mature and emerging markets, according to Gartner Inc (NYSE:IT)’s Carolina Milanesi.

The ultramobile category — which includes devices like Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) Chromebooks and Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows 8 convertibles — is starting to gain traction and may grab sales from premium tablets like the iPad. Windows 8.1 and Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC)‘s newest Bay Trail and Haswell processors will play a large role in this, particularly when considering the dramatic battery life improvements that Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) is delivering this year.

Consumers are also shifting from premium tablets to basic tablets, and the iPad Mini is estimated to have already grabbed 60% of all iOS device sales in the first quarter. That broad shift will put some pressure on average selling prices and margins as the market is flooded with low-cost devices.

On the platform front, Gartner notes that companies face challenges in tapping all form factors. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is the most successful in this department, and has a “more homogenous presence across all device segments.” Android’s strength is concentrated primarily in smartphones, while Windows is still the dominant PC operating system.

Operating System 2014 Unit Forecast 2014 Market Share Forecast
Android 1.06 billion 42%
Windows 378.1 million 15%
iOS/Mac 354.8 million 14%

Source: Gartner.

Smartphones are the volume leader, which will help Android reach an estimated 1.06 billion units next year. However, due to Android’s open and fragmented nature, the search giant won’t benefit from all of those devices, as many will run distinct Android forks.

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