The universe of smart connected devices, including PCs, media tablets, and smartphones, saw shipments of more than 916 million units and revenues surpassing $489 billion dollars in 2011, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC). These numbers reflect the combined total from IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker, Mobile Phone Tracker, and Media Tablet Tracker.
“Whether it’s consumers looking for a phone that can tap into several robust ‘app’ ecosystems, businesses looking at deploying tablet devices into their environments, or educational institutions working to update their school’s computer labs, smart, connected, compute-capable devices are playing an increasingly important role in nearly every individual’s life,” said Bob O’Donnell, vice president, Clients and Displays at IDC.
Looking ahead, unit shipments for smart connected devices should top 1.1 billion worldwide in 2012. By 2016, IDC predicts shipments will reach 1.84 billion units, more than double the 2011 figure, as consumers and business of all shapes and sizes around the world are showing a nearly insatiable appetite for smart connected devices. This works out to a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.4% for the five-year forecast period.
In terms of platforms, IDC expects a relatively dramatic shift between 2011 and 2016, with the once-dominant Windows on x86 platform, consisting of PCs running the Windows operating system on any x86-compatible CPU, slipping from a leading 35.9% share in 2011 down to 25.1% in 2016. The number of Android-based devices running on ARM CPUs, on the other hand, will grow modestly from 29.4% share in 2011 to a market-leading 31.1% share in 2016. Meanwhile, iOS-based devices will grow from 14.6% share in 2011 to 17.3% in 2016.
“Android’s growth is tied directly to the propagation of lower-priced devices,” said Tom Mainelli, research director, Mobile Connected Devices. “So, while we expect dozens of hardware vendors to own some share in the Android market, many will find profitability difficult to sustain. Similarly, we expect a large percentage of application developers to continue to focus their efforts on iOS, despite the platform’s smaller overall market share, because iOS end users have proven more willing to pay for high-quality apps.”
Research conducted by IDC suggests that many individuals own and regularly use multiple smart connected devices. “We are in the multi-device age,” continued O’Donnell, “and we believe the number of people who use multiple devices will only continue to increase. The trick, moving forward, will be to integrate all these devices into a unified whole through use of personal cloud-type applications and services. That’s the real challenge of what we have often called the ‘PC Plus’ era.”
“Smartphone growth will be driven by Asia/Pacific countries, especially China, where mobile operators are subsidizing the purchase of 3G smartphones, thus increasing the total addressable market. In many if not all instances, the smartphone will be the primary connection to the Internet,” said Will Stofega, program director, Mobile Phone Technologies and Trends. “In countries where devices are not subsidized by the mobile operators, competitive and component-based pricing will help drive volume.”