Mobile Eroding PC Sales, Survey Says iOS-Android 'Duopoly' to Dominate

PC sales are slowly eroding -- and mobile seems to blame. One could argue that the economy has taken a toll on PC sales, and that would probably be accurate. But mobile devices (smartphones, tablets) are gaining mindshare and sales at the expense of PCs. 

Hardware watchers Gartner and IDC both said that Q4 PC sales fell -- somewhere around 1%. Macroeconomic conditions and component shortages are factors. But the big news is tablets and smartphones. Tablets (iPad, Kindle Fire, Nook) were among the most widely requested and given holiday gifts, to the tunes of millions in sales.

 Screen shot 2012-01-17 at 10.44.52 AM

EMarketer rounded up third party data and estimates on iPad and Kindle Fire sales. Hardware tear-down firm iSuppli estimated that Amazon sold 3.9 million Kindle Fire tablets in Q4. Barclay's Capital estimated the number to be 4.5 million. The reality is probably in-between.

Meanwhile iSuppli argues that Apple "shipped" 18.6 million iPads in Q4. Shipped is a bogus metric, but with Apple products sales and shipments are closer than with other OEMs. The iSuppli estimate is probably high, but we'll find out when Apple releases its quarterly revenues on January 24. 

Overall, iSuppli argues that global tablet shipments were 65 million units in 2011. Not only are tablets "sexier" but they're typically cheaper than PCs, notwithstanding price erosion in the Wintel PC market. Take a look at charts from Horace Dediu (the first one above via GigaOM), showing the decline of traditional PCs over the past couple of years. 

Separately the Yankee Group conducted a US consumer survey (n=15,000), released earlier this year, which features some striking findings:

  • 47% of survey respondents own smartphones (Android 39%, iPhone 25%) -- this is the highest percentage figure in the market to date
  • Over 80% of consumers (including current smartphone owners) say they'll buy either an iPhone or Android handset in the next 6 mos.

What that means as a practical matter is that only a small minority are considering another platform. While survey data shouldn't be taken as definitive, they indicate how people are thinking and, by implication, the challenge Microsoft and Nokia's joint marketing efforts face. Windows Phones are nice but struggling to grab mainstream consumer attention and interest. 

In terms of tablets, Windows 8-powered tablets won't be out until later this year. Rumor has it that they could be more expensive than some Windows 8 laptops (to be determined). Windows Tablets face the same "outsider" problem that Microsoft confronts in the smartphone market. By offering laptop-tablet hybrids (like the image above), Microsoft might be able to justify a higher price and grab consumer interest.

However the totality of evidence suggests Microsoft is under intensifying pressure with Windows Phones and Windows 8. Indeed, can Windows 8 "bring sexy back" to the PC market?