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Windows comes up third in OS clash two years early

Gregg Keizer | April 4, 2016
Last year, Gartner said Windows would remain No. 2 until 2017; latest data says it ended up behind Apple's OS X and iOS in 2015.

"The double-digit growth era for the global smartphone market has come to an end," said Ranjit Atwal, a Gartner analyst, in a statement. "Historically, worsening economic conditions had negligible impact on smartphone sales and spend, but this is no longer the case. China and North America smartphone sales are on pace to be flat in 2016, exhibiting a 0.7% and 0.4% growth respectively."

Traditional PCs, more mobile designs, and tablets will also take beatings of various kinds this year, Gartner asserted.

The most bruised? Traditional personal computers. Shipments of those machines will slump to just 228 million, a 6.6% decline. Although what Gartner called "ultra-mobiles" -- such as Apple's MacBook and MacBook Air notebooks, and Microsoft's Surface Pro 2-in-1 -- will climb 26.7% to 57 million this year, even that hot design category won't make up the difference. Together, the two categories are expected to result in 285 million shipments, 1.4% fewer than in 2015.

Gartner, like Microsoft and Windows OEMs, bet on Windows 10 to drag the ever-broader "PC" category out of the doldrums next year. Analysts assumed that in 2017, shipments will increase by 3.9% to 296 million.

"In 2016, the PC market will reach its last year of decline before returning to growth in 2017," Atwal said. "The biggest challenge, and potential benefit for the PC market, is the integration of Windows 10 with Intel's Skylake architecture. It has the potential for new form factors with more attractive features."

If that sounds vaguely familiar, it should. Nine months ago, Gartner forecast that 2016's PC + ultra-mobile shipments would rise 3.7%. Then, Atwal hedged his bet on Windows 10, saying, "Windows 10 could boost replacements during 2016 [emphasis added]," but anticipated that growth would return to the PC business in the year.


Device shipments through 2018 
Shipments of Windows-powered devices -- personal computers, 2-in-1s, tablets and smartphones -- dipped beneath those of Apple's iOS and OS X devices in 2015. Microsoft won't recover the No. 2 spot during the forecast period, which runs through 2018. Data: Gartner. Click on image to enlarge.


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