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Bad news for Windows as PC market set to decline 7.6% this year

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Look, we all know that the PC market isn’t in the healthiest place at the moment. And while tablets and smartphones may never completely kill off the PC, they’re not about to let it make a comeback.

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The latest research from tech research company Gartner suggests that they PC market will decline 7.6% this year. This is not a temporary trend induced by a more austere economic environment, it is a reflection of a long-term change in user behavior. And for now at least, that’s bad news for Microsoft.

Yes the Redmond-based giant does have plays in both the tablet and smartphone space but, as things stand, its largest presence is on PCs. Ultra portable devices might keep it floating in this market for a while yet (sales of traditional PCs and ultramobiles combined show a slightly lower 3.5% decline in 2013) but if it’s to stay a seriously powerful force it needs to up its mobile game.

Worldwide tablet shipments are forecast to total 197-million units in 2013, a 69.8% increase from 2012 shipments of 116-million units. “Lower prices, form factor variety, cloud update and consumers’ addiction to apps will be the key drivers in the tablet market,” says Ranjit Atwal, a research director at Gartner. “Growth in the tablet segment will not be limited to mature markets alone. Users in emerging markets who are looking for a companion to their mobile phone will increasingly choose a tablet as their first computing device and not a PC.”

At the moment, the tablet and smartphone markets are both dominated by Android and iOS. While Windows Phone is outselling the iPhone in a handful of countries, it hasn’t shown any signs of becoming a runaway success. At the end of 2012 it held just three percent of global OS marketshare, a fraction of the nearly 70% held by Android.

Things are hardly better in the tablet world. Sales of its own tablet, the Surface have been disappointing to say the least.

According to Gartner, the proliferation of lower-priced tablets and their growing capability is accelerating the shift from PCs to tablets.

“While there will be some individuals who retain both a personal PC and a tablet, especially those who use either or both for work and play, most will be satisfied with the experience they get from a tablet as their main computing device,” says Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner. “As consumers shift their time away from their PC to tablets and smartphones, they will no longer see their PC as a device that they need to replace on a regular basis.”

Milanesi reckons the trend to mobile will have far wider-reaching implications than the displacement of hardware. “Software and chipset architecture are also impacted by this shift as consumers embrace apps and personal cloud,” she says.

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