idc

Now that 2014 has come to a close, we can definitively say that the PC market has turned around in the US, growing 5% after years of decline.

Without much category competition, PC innovation grew stagnant over the decades. Then tablets came and easily beat PCs that catered to low cost, light computing needs. PC makers tried new things, but the technology wasn’t ready. New, experimental devices were either too heavy, too slow, too short on battery life or too expensive. Windows 8’s bad reputation certainly didn’t help.

2014 was a comeback because the entire PC value curve shifted upwards significantly. You got far better PCs for a given price, and customers — now used to great smartphones and tablets — demanded and expected quality. Only the top PC makers met that expectation.

Meanwhile, the tablet form factor saw little change so naturally, it made sense for customers to upgrade their old PCs for a dramatically better experience. The tablets they already had were just fine.

Now that we are on the brink of “good enough” convergence between PCs and tablets, I expect the hybrid form factor to grow even more as people seek to save money and do work on their tablets.

Last year, I consistently beat the gong for big display smartphones, and that was before the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus made the notion popular. This year I am beating the gong for hybrid devices.

Well, that was a longer lead-in than I expected to write. On with actual numbers from IDC.

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As expected, according to IDC, iPad sales declined 13% year-over-year while the tablet market grew 7%. That’s bad for Apple. Part of it is the longer replacement cycle; another is that iPads are not competitive with “good enough” Android tablets that cost substantially less. But this is a story we’ve explored before on the Cornerplay.

What’s more interesting is Windows 2-in-1 hybrid devices, which IDC reports at 4% of the market while pure Windows tablets are just 0.6%. That means 2-in-1s are 87% of all Windows tablets.

While those are tiny numbers, Windows tablets grew 67% in an environment where iPads actually declined. IDC expects this forward momentum to continue, and for Windows to achieve 11% market share by 2018.

What do we think? Predicting technology is like trying to thread a needle on top of a speeding train, but we’re up for the challenge.

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I previously wrote how Microsoft and PC makers should be concerned about Mac computers, which saw record growth the previous quarter and will likely see continued growth. However, there’s chatter on the blogosphere that is taking the “Mac is destroying PCs” narrative too far.

Charts like this get posted:

Provocative, but very misleading.

This is probably more representative of the big picture:

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Some time ago, we wrote the following about the upcoming ecosystem war, which will be delineated by display size:

At this screen size, productivity is possible and most consumers will want to do some work with such a device. I’m seeing more people purchase keyboard covers for their iPads; and of course, 2-in-1 PCs address this segment as well. Going forward, no device in this [10- to 13-inch display size ] category will be purely about consumption or purely about work — consumers will expect to do both on a device this size. That is why Google acquired QuickOffice; Apple is rumored to debut a 12-inch iPad Pro soon; and why Microsoft is desperately courting developers to create for consumers.

Apple and Google seem to agree. With tablet sales leveling off; the 12.9-inch iPad Pro expected to launch soon; and Google and HTC developing a keyboard cover for the new, 9-inch Nexus; Apple and Google are moving into Microsoft’s traditional stronghold of devices designed for work.

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