Tablet shipments are expected to surpass total PC shipments in the fourth quarter of 2013, IDC said this week. Shipments of PCs will still be higher than tablets for the full year, but that will change by the end of 2015.
IDC puts 2013 shipments of tablets at 227.3 million, while PCs come in at 315.3 million (180.9 million of which are laptops). Smartphones dwarf that with over a billion shipped worldwide.
By 2017, those numbers will shift, with 406.8 million tablets shipped for 16.5 per cent of the market and PCs growing only slightly from this year's numbers to 319 million, or 13 per cent of the market. Smartphones will still have a lock on smart connected devices, with 1.7 billion in shipments or 70.5 per cent of the market.
Overall, the connected device market - PCs, tablets, and smartphones - will grow 27.8 per cent year over year in 2013, a bit less than the 30 per cent growth seen in 2012. But tablets and smartphones will dominate that growth, while the PC outlook will drop by 10 per cent.
Though tablets are gaining in popularity, smartphones will continue to dominate for the foreseeable future, with 1.4 billion units in 2015 capturing 69 per cent of the connected devices market.
Shipments in the connected devices market are expected to slow by 2017 to 3.1 per cent, thanks in part to low-cost smartphones and the white box tablet market, particularly those under $350 (£220).
"At a time when the smartphone and tablet markets are showing early signs of saturation, the emergence of lower-priced devices will be a game-changer," Megha Saini, a research analyst with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Smart Connected Device Tracker, said in a statement. "Introducing new handsets and tablet devices at cheaper price points along with special initiatives like trade-in programs from Apple and Best Buy will accelerate the upgrade cycle and expand the total addressable market overnight."
Some might say that Apple missed its chance to introduce a truly low-cost iPhone this week with the iPhone 5C. The 16GB version of the device will set you back £469 SIM-free, which is not exactly going to be popular in emerging markets.
IDC didn't break down which gadget maker it expects to take the market share crown in the coming years. But it did point to phablets cannibalising the market a bit.
"Over the next 12-18 months, however, we believe the larger smartphones, commonly called 'phablets', will start to eat into the smaller-size tablet market, contributing to a slower growth rate for tablets," said Bob O'Donnell, IDC's program vice president for clients and displays.