Bright future for UMPCs, touchscreens, and tablets

Market research firm Gartner is forecasting a much better year in 2010 for PC shipments worldwide than last year, expecting a 20 percent increase year-over-year. However, mobile computing will be the main impetus behind that growth.

Mobile PCs accounted for over half—55 percent—of all PC shipments in 2009, but Gartner expects that percentage to climb to 70 percent by 2012. Apple in particular has seen most of its sales of Macs come from MacBook and MacBook Pro models for some time, leading the industry in this trend for the last three years.

"The PC industry will be overwhelmingly driven by mobile PCs, thanks to strong home growth in both emerging and mature markets," George Shiffler, research director at Gartner, said in a statement. Netbooks will continue to sell well in 2010, but are expected to decline as ultra-low-voltage, ultra-thin laptops and "next-generation tablets"—think iPad—take over this product segment. The iPad has fueled renewed interest in tablets in particular, and the company expects that traditional tablets and iPad-like devices could move 10.5 million units combined by the end of the year.

"We expect mobile PCs to drive 90 percent of PC growth over the next three years," Shiffler added.

Growth will also come from other touchscreen-based mobile devices, such as the iPhone, Palm Pre, and Nexus One. Touchscreens will begin to move down market to midrange devices as well. "As phone capabilities increase, consumers are becoming much more aware of the benefits of touch interfaces, and vendors are responding," according to Gartner principal research analyst Roberta Cozza.

Gartner expects sales of touchscreen-based mobile devices to nearly double in 2010, selling more 362 million units. Over the next three years, such devices will account for 58 percent of sales worldwide, and as much as 80 percent in "developed markets."

However, warned Gartner analyst CK Lu, vendors can't just slap a touchscreen in a device and call it a day. "Touch technology is just an enabler, and ultimately, it is a compelling user experience—which includes good UI design, applications and services—that will make or break a product," he said in a statement. Apple has a commanding lead on this front with its App Store, responsible for an overwhelming majority of mobile app sales last year. Other platforms, such as Android, are beginning to slowly catch up in both experience and app ecosystems.

Source: ars technica

Tags: notebooks

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