Gartner predicts the future: Lots of tablets, not many BlackBerries

Predicting the future can be a risky proposition. Analyst firm Gartner is giving it a shot with its forecast of global device shipments to 2017. Some of their forecast seems solid while others – particularly for BlackBerry fans – will seem somewhat less so.

When it comes to device shipments by segment, Gartner seems on firm ground – fewer PCs, and more of everything else. They’re forecasting PC shipments to drop (all figures in thousands of units) from 341,263 last year down to 271,612 in 2017. It sees tablet shipments skyrocketing from 116,113 last year to 467,951 in 2017, and mobile phone shipments steadily growing from 2.1 million to 2.9 million devices.

According to Gartner, the proliferation of lower-priced tablets with greater computing power will accelerate 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,” said Carolina Milanesi, research vice-president at Gartner, in a statement. “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.”

This is the classic “post-PC era” argument, and it’s one I reject. We’re entering a “PC plus” era. Tablets may end the phenomenon of the multi-PC household, but they’re not likely to replace them entirely yet. PCs will remain our digital anchors.

When device shipments are broken down by OS, Garner has some interesting predictions. In numbers that include tablets, PCs and mobile phones, Gartner sees Android growing its lead as the dominant OS, rising from 497,082 in 2012 to 1.4 million in 2017. Windows will be close behind at 570,937 in 2017, followed by iOS/Mac OS at 504,147.

Gartner sees a steady decline for BlackBerry (which it mislabels as RIM), forecasting a steady decline from 34,722 in 2012 to 24,121 by 2017.

“The trend towards smartphones and tablets will have much wider implications than hardware displacement,” said Milanesi. “Software and chipset architecture are also impacted by this shift as consumers embrace apps and personal cloud.”

Have to disagree with the pessimistic forecast for BlackBerry. With the launch of the Z10 this year and the Q10 later this month, with several new devices for the mid and low-end market planned, and with the very real possibility CEO Thorsten Heins will look at OS licensing, I’m willing to bet against such a market decline.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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