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article imageStudy: Smartphones and tablets to outsell computers in 2011

By Chris Hogg     Jan 19, 2011 in Technology
For the first time in history, cellphone and tablet sales are expected to outnumber computer sales, a study by Deloitte Canada predicts. The report says 425 million smartphones and tablets are expected to ship globally compared to 400 million PCs.
"In 2011, more than half of computing devices sold globally will not be PCs," the report (PDF) indicates. "While PC sales are likely to reach almost 400 million units, Deloitte’s estimate for combined sales of smartphones, tablets and non-PC netbooks is well over that amount."
Deloitte is a professional services firm that provides audit, tax, consulting, and financial advisory services to businesses. This study was released as part of the company's 2011 global Technology, Media & Telecommunications Predictions report.
"Unlike the 2009 netbook phenomenon, when buyers chose machines that were less powerful versions of traditional PCs (but still PCs), the 2011 computing market will be dominated by devices that use different processing chips and operating systems than those used for PCs over the past 30 years," the report says. "This shift has prompted some analysts to proclaim the era of the PC is over."
Deloitte disagrees with the belief that traditional PCs are dead, saying they are going to continue to be the workhorse computing platform for most people around the world. That said, Deloitte believes 2011 will be a tipping point as consumers move away from standard PCs to a new era of smartphones and tablets.
"[Consumers] will continue to move away from a predictable, but narrow, world of standardized computing devices like the PC, and vote with their wallets in favour of a diversity of choices including tablets and smartphones," a Deloitte Canada news release says.
Duncan Stewart (right)  Director of Deloitte Canada Research and co-author of TMT Predictions 2011  ...
Duncan Stewart (right), Director of Deloitte Canada Research and co-author of TMT Predictions 2011, presents the company's forecasts for changes in technology to an audience in Montreal.
Photo courtesy of Deloitte Canada
Deloitte's study mirrors a lot of the predictions made by Polar Mobile, an app developer for more than 150 customers including Time, BusinessWeek and Digital Journal. In December 2010, Polar Mobile made 11 predictions for the future of mobile where the company forecast explosive growth for mobiles and tablets.
"Mobile will become part of every business' marketing and distribution strategy in 2011," Kunal Gupta, CEO of Polar Mobile, told in an email statement in December. "That's where we all spend our time and brands, marketers and publishers will want to capture that opportunity."
Anyone who ever wanted evidence of mobile growth need look no further than Apple, a leader in the mobile and tablet worlds. The company announced its Q1 earnings yesterday, boasting record revenue of $26.74 billion and record net quarterly profit of $6 billion. Apple says it sold 16.24 million iPhones in the quarter, representing 86 percent unit growth over the year-ago quarter. iPads also saw booming sales, with Apple saying the company sold 7.33 million iPads during the quarter and nearly 15 million in 2010. More than 17 million are expected to ship in 2011.
Photo by Blake Patterson
Furthermore, tech companies showed off more than 80 tablets at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month.
With the growth of the smartphone and tablet market, Deloitte says price, performance, form factor and other variables will vary and make buying decisions more complicated for consumers.
"Choosing a device will take longer, and will need to be done more carefully," the study notes.
In a news release, Duncan Stewart Director of Deloitte Canada Research and co-author of TMT Predictions 2011, said, "Like kids in a candy store, consumers and enterprises will be excited, yet overwhelmed by the sheer variety of options available to them. With PCs, netbooks, tablets and smartphones, buyers must choose among a wide array of functionalities, platforms, operating systems, sizes, features and price points."
Deloitte's top 10 predictions for 2011 include:
1. Smartphones and tablets: More than half of all computers aren’t computers anymore
2. Tablets in the enterprise: More than just a toy
3. Operating system diversity: No standard emerges on the smartphone or tablet
4. Social network advertising: How big can it get?
5. Television’s "super media" status strengthens
6. PVRs proliferate! The 30-second spot doesn’t die!
7. Push beats pull in the battle for the television viewer
8. What’s "in-store" for Wi-Fi: Retailers roll-out Wi-Fi
9. Getting to 4G cheaply: Will many carriers opt for 3.5G instead? The proliferation of new computing devices doesn’t mean that we need new networks
10. Wi-Fi complements cellular broadband for "data on the move"
More details on each of these can be found in Deloitte's report (PDF) or via a livestream online.
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