Tablets & Smartphones Expected to Surpass PCs in Sales

NEW YORK — This year, for the first time ever, cellphones will overtake PCs — both notebooks and desktops — as the largest electronic systems market and end-use application for integrated circuits, according to IC Insights.

Global production of electronics will grow from $1.41 billion in 2013 to $1.74 billion by 2017, according to the 2014 edition of IC Insights’ IC Market Drivers report (subscription required.

Cellphones are projected to make up 18% or $247.2 billion of worldwide electronics sales this year; standard PCs will make up 15% or $208.3 billion. This is a major shift from last year, when cellphones made up 16% of the market and PCs made up 17%.

As for ICs, the report projects that cellphones will make up 24% of sales this year, versus 22% last year. PCs will make up 22% of the market this year, versus 25% last year. PC sales are expected to be more or less flat from 2012 to 2017, while the cellphone market is expected to grow 12.9%.

Among end-use markets, IC sales are projected to grow the most in wireless systems (17.9%), followed by tablets (15.3%).

On whole, IC Insights predicts that PC unit shipments will increase an average of 10.6% from 486 million in 2012 to 522 million in 2013 and reach about 770 million by 2017. However, combined desktop and notebook PC sales are projected to drop 8.7% to about 315 million in 2013 — the biggest single-year decline in the PC market’s history, topping a 4.5% tumble in 2001 in the midst of a recession.

The tablet market is going in the opposite direction. Unit shipments are expected to rise 73% from 117 million last year to 202 million this year. Laptops specifically designed for Internet and cloud computing are set to grow from 3.5 million units last year to 5.1 million this year.

PC shipments are projected to fall 0.3% from 345 million in 2012 to 340 million in 2017. Tablet shipments are projected to skyrocket 28.8 percent over the same period to 415 million. Internet and cloud computing laptops are expected to reach 15 million by 2017.

Internationally, China is expected to win the largest share of the market, with about 18% of overall computing system units. The US is expected to come in second (17%), followed by Europe (15%) and Japan (5%).