Gartner: Microsoft, Apple To Jockey for 2nd Place in Device OS Race

Falling PC shipments over the next four years will mean tough times ahead for Microsoft, according to new first-quarter data announced Thursday by Gartner Inc.

Shipments of mobile phones, tablets and "ultramobile" devices will continue to grow over the next four years, while shipments of desktop and notebook computers -- defined by Gartner as "traditional PCs" -- will continue to decline, Gartner projects in its report, "Forecast: Devices by Operating System and User Type, Worldwide, 2010-2017 1Q3 Update."

The analyst and consulting firm expects shipments of traditional PCs to decrease by 7.6 percent in 2013. The addition of ultramobile devices to the market will slow that decline to 3.5 percent, but Gartner sees a permanent change in buyer behavior at play, with a shift 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," said Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner, in a released statement.

Gartner's prediction of a 7.6 percent decline in PC shipments this year is more pessimistic than IDC's forecast of a 1.3 percent decline.

Shipments of mobile phone devices will continue to predominate globally, and that trend will extend into 2017 when Gartner predicts there will be 2.1 billion mobile phone units shipped. The year 2017 also will see 468 million tablets, 272 million PCs and 96 million ultramobile devices shipped worldwide, per Gartner.

Global operating system market figures from the report show the Android mobile OS dominating the field over the next five years. Microsoft's Windows OSes will be in second place over that same time period. A close contender to Microsoft's OSes will be operating systems from Apple (iOS and Mac OS).

Gartner's data shows Microsoft's and Apple's OSes running neck-and-neck in the overall global OS market-share race (see table).

Worldwide Devices Shipments by Operating System (Thousands of Units)
Operating System 2012 2013 2014 2017
Android 497,082 860,937 1,069,503 1,468,619
Windows 346,457 354,410 397,533 570,937
iOS/MacOS 212,899 293,428 359,483 504,147
RIM 34,722 31,253 27,150 24,121
Others 1,122,213 871,718 702,786 396,959
Total 2,213,373 2,411,796 2,556,455 2,964,783
Note: Devices include notebooks and desk-based PCs, tablets, ultramobiles and mobile phones.
Source: Gartner (April 2013)

About the Author

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