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Tablet shipments will exceed PC shipments before the year is out because consumers continue to favor mobile devices over personal computers, according to new research from IDC.
The study was on the worldwide smart connected device market, which includes PCs, tablets, and smartphones. PC shipments are still expected to beat out tablets for the full year, but will fall short of tablets during the fourth quarter. Tablets are expected to outsell PCs overall by 2015.
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The overall smart-connected device market is expected to grow 10.6% in 2013, but that growth will slow to 3.1% by 2017 as the market becomes more saturated. The firm predicts that as the market becomes more heavily saturated, low-cost devices will become increasingly important, especially for emerging markets and the education sector.
IDC also cited price as the reason that smartphones and tablets are outgrowing PCs. Tablets have most of the same basic functions as a laptop but are cheaper and more portable, and so are becoming more popular among consumers.
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"At a time when the smartphone and tablet markets are showing early signs of saturation, the emergence of lower-priced devices will be a game-changer," said Megha Saini, a research analyst with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Smart Connected Device Tracker. "Introducing new handsets and tablet devices at cheaper price points along with special initiatives like trade-in programs from Apple and Best Buy will accelerate the upgrade cycle and expand the total addressable market overnight."
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The high growth rate for tablets will eventually start to be eaten away by so-called phablets, or smartphones with screens 5 inches or larger, the firm predicts. The same principle that caused the cannibalization of laptops applies here, as well. If consumers can get a large smartphone that does everything a tablet can do, plus makes phone calls and is cheaper and smaller, then that's the device more people will choose to spend money on.