Consumer preferences in terms of computing are shifting to a new form factor in the detriment of PCs and, at least for the time being, Windows.
iPad and Tablet PCs provide increasing competition to traditional personal computers, so much so in fact, that market analysis firm Gartner has changed the forecast of worldwide PC shipments, noting that OEMs will push less machines than expected this year.
Worldwide PC shipments are still expected to grow in 2010 by an impressive 14.3% compared to 2009, to as much as 352.4 million units. , At the same time, Gartner now estimates a more modest growth compared to the original projections from September, which involved a 17.9% growth.
At the same time, while the firm expects PC shipments to continue increasing at a double digit figure in the coming year, it now says that the number of units shipped will only jump 15.9% instead of the 18.1% forecasted initially to 409 million units.
Responsible for these consistent worldwide PC shipments estimates are Tablet PCs, and especially the iPad.
“These results reflect marked reductions in expected near-term unit growth based on expectations of weaker consumer demand, due in no small part to growing user interest in media tablets such as the iPad,” explained Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner.
“Over the longer term, media tablets are expected to displace around 10 percent of PC units by 2014.”
While other original equipment manufacturers are also rushing to jump on the tablet bandwagon as soon as possible, fact is that Apple is currently dominating the market with the iPad.
And each PC sale that OEM lose to Apple’s iPad also means a lost Windows sale for Microsoft, as the vast majority of Windows revenue comes from copies of the operating system preloaded on new PCs.
Windows 7 tablets are yet to it the market in mass, or to offer real rivals to the iPad. Furthermore, OEMs now also have another iOS competitor to choose from, a platform which has enjoyed explosive growth on the smartphone market, namely Android.
“Media tablet capabilities are expected to become more PC-like in the coming years, luring consumers away from PCs and displacing a significant volume of PC shipments, especially mini-notebooks,” Gartner predicts.
“Media tablets are rapidly finding favor with PC buyers who are attracted to their more-dedicated entertainment-driven features and their instant-on capability.”
Unless Microsoft moves fast enough to get Windows 7 on as many Tablet PCs as possible, it risks losing more and more Windows sales to iOS.
The Redmond company already confirmed that it will only start delivering iPad rivals in the form of Windows 7 slates together with its OEM partners in 2011 after Intel introduces its low-voltage Oak Trail processor.
“PC market growth will be impacted by devices that enable better on-the-go content consumption such as media tablets and next-generation smartphones,” said Raphael Vasquez, research analyst at Gartner.
“These devices will be increasing embraced as complements if not substitutes for PCs where voice and light data consumption are desired. It is likely that desk-based PCs will be adversely impacted over the long-term by the adoption of hosted virtual desktops, which can readily use other devices like thin clients.”