Tablet sales on pace to eclipse PC sales in just two years

Moses Tablet Ten Commandments
Moses was way ahead of the curve

As if the PC community hadn't already received a healthy helping of bad news earlier this year when it was discovered shipments fell 13.9 percent during the first quarter, new estimates indicate even more troubling times lie in wait.

According to new numbers put together by the International Data Corporation (IDC), PCs will be overtaken by tablet sales by 2015.

Of course, that trend will start this year, as laptop sales are expected to be eclipsed by the likes of the iPad and Nexus 10, as the PC market is expected to slip even further for a second straight year.

High pressure system

Back in March, the IDC believed tablet sales would reach upwards of 190.9 million units sold through 2013, but has since gone back to the board on those numbers.

The good news is, the IDC now estimates tablets could reach 229.3 million units, a sharp 58.7 percent increase over 2012's 144.5 million.

The bad new though is now PCs are going to be outgunned at retail by an even larger number than originally believed based on the IDC's numbers.

Portable PCs are expected to account for 187.4 million of all PC sales for the year, but that still marks a 7.8 percent decline in where laptops stood just one year ago.

"Tablets surpassing portables in 2013, and total PCs in 2015, marks a significant change in consumer attitudes about compute devices and the applications and ecosystems that power them," said Ryan Reith, Program Manager for IDC's Mobility Trackers.

"But for many consumers, a tablet is a simple and elegant solution for core use cases that were previously addressed by the PC."

Sweet spots

Through 2015, all computers are estimated to sell around 323 million units, with tablets just edging the desktops and laptops of the future out with nearly 332 million sales.

The IDC points to the emergence of smaller tablets, such as the iPad mini and Nexus 7, as the key factor in the recent surge.

Where once the iPad's 9.7-inch display was believed to be the perfect size for tablets, the sub-8-inch market has exploded, and is on pace to be the dominant scale in all tablet sales.

Last year, tablets smaller than 8-inches were responsible for just 27 percent of all sales, but in 2013, the category is expected to more than double to 55 percent.

The plethora of diminutive Android tablets has certainly helped the operating system gain plenty of ground on Apple's iOS, but the iPad is still the leader of this pack.

Another key factor is the rapidly dropping average price of a tablet, which in 2013 has fallen 10.8 percent to $381 (UK£252, AU$390), compared to the $635 (UK£421, AU$658) average asking price of a PC.

"Apple's success in the education market has proven that tablets can be used as more than just a content consumption or gaming device," said Jitesh Ubrani, a research analyst for the Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker.

"These devices are learning companions, and as tablet prices continue to drop, the dream of having a PC for every child gets replaced with the reality that we can actually provide a tablet for every child."

Sometimes the reality is better than the dream, at least as long as you're a tablet maker.