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Report: 'Wintel' PCs To Lose Ground in Mobile-Device Era

Shipments of Wintel PCs will experience a marked slowdown through 2016, according to the latest research projections by IDC.

While "smart connected devices" such as PCs, tablets and smartphones are trending upward overall, much of the segment's growth will come from the mobile side. x86-based Windows PCs -- the cornerstone of Microsoft's software empire -- are headed for a downward slide, IDC says.

"In terms of platforms, IDC expects a relatively dramatic shift between 2011 and 2016, with the once-dominant Windows on x86 platform, consisting of PCs running the Windows operating system on any x86-compatible CPU, slipping from a leading 35.9% share in 2011 down to 25.1% in 2016," IDC explained in a released statement.

UPDATE: In a phone call late Thursday, IDC clarified its estimate for Microsoft's market position in this smart connected devices world. In 2011, Microsoft's total operating system market share was at 36.9 percent. By 2016, that total OS market share will be 37.3 percent. IDC expects that Microsoft will remain as the largest OS company in 2016, according to Bob O'Donnell, IDC's program vice president for clients and displays.

IDC drew its conclusions on smart connected device markets from three reports, including its "Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker," "Mobile Phone Tracker," and "Media Tablet Tracker." A chart released Thursday by IDC shows PC shipments slightly increasing, even as smartphones (red bars) predominate by 2016. UPDATE: O'Donnell explained that PC shipments are nonetheless still decreasing in relation to the overall universe of smart connected devices.

Chart: Worldwide Smart Connected Device Shipments, 2010-2016 (Unit Millions)Description: This data comes from IDC's WW Quarterly PC Tracker, WW Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, and WW Quarterly Media Tablet and eReader Tracker.Tags: Tracker, mobile phones, tablets, forecast, PCs, devices, consumer, IDC ...Author: IDCcharts powered by iCharts

Smart connected devices generated $489 billion in 2011 on shipments of 916 million units. IDC expects these shipments to "more than double" by 2016.

IDC's announcement did not describe Microsoft's moves to put Windows 8 on tablets or its smartphone approach with the Windows Phone operating system over the five-year period. Questions about how that information might fit within the projections went unanswered by press time.

However, IDC did describe projected mobile device growth for the Android OS and Apple's iOS. ARM devices running Android will grow from 29.4 percent market share in 2011 to 31.1 percent in 2016. Apple devices running iOS will grow from 14.6 percent market share in 2011 to 17.3 percent in 2016.

Tom Mainelli, IDC research director, commented in a released statement that "Android's growth is tied directly to the propagation of lower priced devices," noting that it might not sustain the current number of hardware vendors. He added that developers will be expected to continue their focus on the iOS platform because Apple device users tend to pay for higher quality applications.

Future smartphone growth will be driven by the Asia-Pacific regions, particularly China, according to Will Stofega, program director, mobile phone technologies and trends.

"In many if not all instances, the smartphone will be the primary connection to the Internet," Stofega explained, in a released statement.

IDC researchers expect to see a multiple-device world ahead, calling it "the PC plus era." The challenge, according to IDC, will be in connecting those devices via "personal cloud-type applications and services."

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About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.