You May Never Buy Another PC or Tablet

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This is shaping up to be another troublesome year for PC makers, but it's not as if tablet manufacturers can laugh at the gradual demise of the desktop and laptop industry. Market researcher IDC recently revised its industry forecasts for 2015, and they're not pretty for any of these devices.

It now sees PC shipments declining 5 percent to 293.1 million units this year, off from its earlier projection calling for a decline of 3.3 percent in 2015.

Sales of traditional computers have been sputtering in recent years, but things seemed to be stabilizing with the improving global economy. Industry tracker Gartner reported eight consecutive quarters of year-over-year declines before shipments managed a 0.1 percent uptick during the second quarter of last year. That was followed by a slight dip during the third quarter before bouncing back with a 1 percent year-over-year advance during the holiday quarter.

The prognosis isn't as cheery for the year ahead. Gartner joins IDC in calling for a slide in 2015 shipments of traditional PCs.

Take Two Tablets and Call Me in the Mourning

The fall of the PC isn't a surprise. We're several years deep into the mobile revolution, and that means that many folks are buying smartphones and tablets instead of buying or upgrading their desktops and laptops.

It was only a matter of time. Unless you happen to be into computer gaming or require the heavy-duty horsepower of a PC for desktop publishing, programming, or other intensive applications, you're probably fine with a smartphone or a tablet paired up with a Bluetooth keyboard. If all you're using your desktop or laptop for is to check email, surf the Web and run apps, the only tool you need to get connected may already be in your pocket.

Tablets were originally seen as the PC killer, but it's clear that the mobile revolution is largely a smartphone movement. The market initially noticed softness with tablets when Apple's (AAPL) trend-defining iPad began to show signs of weakness, but now even cheaper Android gadgetry is starting to feel the pinch.

IDC reported that just 76.1 million tablets shipped worldwide during the fourth quarter, the first time that the product posted a year-over-year decline. IDC is now forecasting 234.5 million in tablet shipments for 2015, translating into a meager uptick of 2.1 percent.

So it's not just the PC that seems obsolete these days. A lot of young consumers may never know what it's like to own a tablet, either.

Phoning It In

Declining PC sales and decelerating growth of tablet shipments may suggest that computing in general has stalled if not peaked. However, the picture gets substantially brighter once we factor in the continuing boom in smartphone sales.

Back in January, Gartner was forecasting mobile phone shipments worldwide to climb from 1.838 billion last year to 1.906 billion in 2015. That may be less than 4 percent, but the sheer volume of additional phones will be more than enough to offset the decline in PCs. That should come as welcome news to the dot-com leaders that are counting on the online population continuing to grow. The PC may be dying and the tablet may be sputtering, but thanks to the smartphone, we're as connected as ever these days.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out our free report on the Apple Watch to learn where the real money is to be made for early investors.
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