Tablets will lead the PC market within three years

(Relaxnews) - Consumers are turning to mobile devices for functionality traditionally associated with computers, and the touchscreen revolution Microsoft hopes to usher in with the launch of Windows 8 will not be enough to reverse falling computer sales, according to new projections.

The latest Canalys forecast claims that computer sales are set to continue their downward trend in 2013 as consumers continue to choose tablets and smartphones over notebook and desktop PCs. The report also suggests that so far, Windows 8, Microsoft's latest operating system has failed to capture the public's imagination and is set to continue to struggle in the marketplace.

"The launch of Windows 8 did not reinvigorate the market in 2012, and is expected to have a negative effect as we move into 2013. Windows 8 is so different to previous versions that most consumers will be put off by the thought of having to learn a new OS," highlighted Canalys Research Analyst Tom Evans. "An additional barrier is the potential increase in cost that Windows 8 brings, as it is perceived that a PC with a touch-screen is needed to get the best user experience. In the current economic climate, this will be enough to make people delay purchases as they wait for prices to fall."

This is despite this week's announcement by Microsoft's CFO and CMO for Windows, Tammi Reller, that the company has already sold 60 million licenses for its latest operating system -- putting its sales performance on par with the launch for Windows 7 -- plus initial feedback and reaction from the International Consumer Electronics Show, where PCs, notebooks, tablets and hybrid computers that use the operating system to offer touch functionality have been highlights of the event.

Increased complexity for the consumer looking to buy

However, Canalys believes that this increased depth of choice and model type will backfire, making the buying decision even more complicated for the average consumer. "Now buyers must decide between an Ultrabook and a standard notebook, a touch-screen and a non-touch-screen, as well as an increasing array of form-factors, such as clamshell, convertible and hybrid. This added complexity will make purchases more considered and lengthen the sales process," said Canalys Analyst Tim Coulling.

Therefore Canalys is predicting that tablets will continue to be the driving force in the PC market for years to come, forecasting annual growth of 37 percent up to 2016 when it expects 398 million units to ship. This will give tablets a 59 percent share of the PC market. However, in its analysis of the market, it includes hybrid PCs that run Windows 8 and offer both tablet and computer functionality in its definition of what constitutes a tablet or ‘pad'.

And Canalys is not alone in arriving at this conclusion. Data from NPD DisplaySearch published this week shows that tablets are already overtaking portable computers. Its figures state that 240 million tablets will ship in 2013, compared with 207 notebook PCs.

Not everyone is as negative about the outlook for the PC. Leading computer manufacturer Lenovo claims that touch screens are the future and believes 60 percent of all its computers this year will feature a touch interface. Likewise, Gartner has highlighted that one of the reasons why tablets have been proving popular is because of a reduction in disposable income in a number of mature markets. Consumers are unwilling to invest in a high specification notebook or desktop and are ‘settling' for a tablet and making do with their current PC for a further year. Indeed, the launch of Microsoft's Surface Pro tablet on January 23 could prove very advantageous in this regard. A tablet with the same productivity features and power of a traditional notebook, it offers a cost-effective method of joining the tablet revolution while simultaneously replacing their existing PC. Copyright (AFP RELAXNEWS), 2013.