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Lower-priced models drive global device growth

Worldwide combined shipments of devices (PCs, tablets and mobile phones) are projected to reach 2.32 billion units in 2013, a 4.5 percent increase from 2012.

That's according to Gartner's latest findings, which claims the market is being driven by a shift to lower-priced devices in nearly all device categories.

The analyst firm reports that tablet shipments are expected to grow 42.7 percent this year, with shipments reaching 184 million units.

Premium tablets are faced with continued price decline in the 7-inch form factor however, as a larger number of consumers prefer smaller form factors when it comes to content consumption.

The study confirmed Gartner's long-standing assumption that smaller is better when it comes to consumer tablets.

The survey showed that the average screen sizes of the tablets in use across the countries ranged from 8.3 inches to 9.5 inches. Forty-seven percent of the 21,500 consumers surveyed owned a tablet that was 8 inches or less.

As the third-quarter earnings season comes to an end, it is clear that our caution for 2013 was well placed as vendors are transitioning their portfolios to the new Intel processors Bay Trail and Haswell, as well as rolling out products that are based on the Windows 8.1 release.

"While consumers will be bombarded with ads for the new ultramobile devices, we expect their attention to be grabbed but not necessarily their money," says Carolina Milanesi, research vice president, Gartner.

"Continuing on the trend we saw last year, we expect this holiday season to be all about smaller tablets as even the long-term holiday favorite — the smartphone — loses its appeal.

Worldwide device shipments by Segment (Thousands of Units) - 2013

PC (desk-based and notebook) - 303,100

Ultramobile - 18,598

Tablet - 184,431

Mobile Phone - 1,810,304

Total - 2,316,433

"Although the preference is for dedicated devices, we see the opportunity for hybrid ultramobile to marry the functionality of a PC and the form factor of the tablet," adds Ranjit Atwal, research director, Gartner.

"Users that have to balance work and play will find that the advantage of buying and carrying one device outweighs the compromise in the full experience that single devices can deliver.

"Users who are not limited by their disposable income will likely have a basic tablet as a companion device to the their ultramobile on which most of their consumption activities will take place."

Mobile market

The mobile phone market will continue to experience steady growth, but the opportunity for high average selling price (ASP) smartphones is now ending according to Milanesi.

Growth is expected to come from mid-tier smartphones in mature markets and low-end Android smartphones in emerging markets.

Microsoft's acquisition of Nokia doesn't have a major impact on the forecast however, because Gartner already assumed that Nokia would have accounted for the vast majority of Windows Phone share throughout the forecast, with only minimal volume coming from other OEMs, such as HTC or Samsung.

"Windows Phone challenges in the smartphone market remain the same, with the need to bring on board more developers and enrich the ecosystem, as well as turning the Windows Phone brand into a cool smartphone brand," Milanesi adds.

"While there are clear benefits to the acquisition, such as channel strength, carrier relationship and emerging-market knowledge, the brand and ecosystem do not directly benefit from it."

The end of Windows XP support in 2014 isn't expected to impact device sales also, as Gartner says 90 percent of large enterprises have either migrated or are migrating to Windows 7 or Windows 8.

Android will remain the leading device operating system (OS), as it is on pace to account for 38 percent of shipments in 2013.

The Windows OS is projected to decline 4.3 percent in 2013 as a result of the decline in traditional PC sales, but will return to growth in 2014 with device OS shipments increasing 9.7 percent.

Worldwide device shipments by OS (Thousands of Units) - 2013

Android - 879,910

Windows - 331,559

iOS/MacOS - 271,949

RIM - 23,103

Others - 809,912

Total - 2,316,433

Wearable devices

Top technology providers see wearable devices as an important market opportunity; however, Gartner expects that wearable devices will primarily remain a companion to mobile phones.

Less than 1 percent of consumers will actually replace their mobile phones with a combination of a wearable device and a tablet by 2017.

"For wearables to be successful, they need to add to the user experience by complementing and enhancing what other devices already offer," Milanesi says.

"They also need to be stylish yet practical, and most of all hit the right price.

"In the short term, we expect consumers to look at wearables as nice to have rather than a "must have," leaving smartphones to play the role of our faithful companion throughout the day."

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