What a difference a couple of months make: In March, research company IDC predicted that PC shipments would drop a modest 1.3 percent year over year. IDC analysts have since parsed the disappointing PC shipment data from Q1, given their Magic 8 Balls another shake, and are now predicting shipments will fall by 7.8 percent this year.
At the same time, the research company has significantly revised its outlook for tablet shipments: IDC now reckons they'll hit 229.3 million units in 2013 (a 58.7 percent year-over-year increase), not the 190.9 million it predicted in March (nor the 172.4 million it predicted in December). IDC now expects that tablet shipments will exceed those of portable PCs this year and will exceed all PC shipments by 2015
IDC's figures point to what pundits like InfoWorld's Woody Leonard and Bill Snyder have been saying for some time: That the traditional PC market is on life support, thanks to such factors as poor Windows 8 reception, corporate bumbling at Dell and HP, and a general lack of imagination among major PC makers. There's also the BYOD factor, which is driving companies and consumers alike to invest in tablets and smartphones as complements to their older-yet-useable computers.
"As the market develops, usage patterns and devices are evolving," said Loren Loverde, program VP for IDC's Worldwide Quarterly PC Trackers. "Many users are realizing that everyday computing, such as accessing the Web, connecting to social media, sending emails, as well as using a variety of apps, doesn't require a lot of computing power or local storage. Instead, they are putting a premium on access from a variety of smaller devices with longer battery life, an instant-on function, and intuitive touch-centric interfaces."
"These users have not necessarily given up on PCs as a platform for computing when a more robust environment is needed, but this takes a smaller share of computing time, and users are making do with older systems," Loverde added.
IDC expects more PC replacements in 2014, particularly in the business world as support for Windows XP expires. However, the commercial market has been conservative with replacements, focusing on individual systems more than large upgrade projects, according to the research company.
Tablets will play a major role in the Post-PC Era: IDC is now predicting tablet shipments will exceed those of portable PCs this year and will outpace the entire PC market (portables and desktops combined) by 2015.
"What started as a sign of tough economic times has quickly shifted to a change in the global computing paradigm with mobile being the primary benefactor," said Ryan Reith, program manager for IDC's Mobility Trackers. "Tablets surpassing portables in 2013, and total PCs in 2015, marks a significant change in consumer attitudes about compute devices and the applications and ecosystems that power them."
IDC credits the current market expansion in part to the influx of low-cost Android devices. According to IDC, the average sales price for tablets will decline by 10.8 percent to $381; average PC prices will be around $635. Tablets prices will continue to decline, "which will allow vendors to deliver a viable computing experience into the hands of many more people at price points the PC industry has strived to meet for years."
IDC still believes that PCs "will have an important role in this new era of computing, especially among business users," Reith said.
This story, "IDC: PC shipments worse than predicted, tablet shipments get better," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.