Mobile devices leave PCs in the dust

Mobility is a key driver in the semiconductor space. That point was driven home by Ajit Manocha, CEO of GLOBALFOUNDRIES, as he discussed how semiconductor manufacturers can deal with the challenges of the burgeoning mobility field in his keynote address at SEMICON West earlier this month. And analytics provider IHS confirmed the trend toward mobility in a report released today.

In addition, Henry Blodget of Business Insider, writing in Slate, has compiled two charts that dramatically show just how dominant smartphones have become vs. traditional PCs, and mobility's dominance will only increase as tablets grab a bigger share of the computing market.

As Blodget puts it in his article accompanying the charts, “For the two decades through 2005, the personal computer was the only game in town, selling about 200 million units a year. But then smartphones and tablets came along. And now they dwarf the PC market.”

His first chart (he cites as sources Gartner, IDC, Strategy Analytics, company filings, and his own estimates) shows that PC shipments have roughly doubled between 2005 and 2012, but mobile device shipments have exploded.

His second chart (citing similar sources) shows global computing platform market share, with Android having taken considerable share from Windows since Q1 2009.

“As recently as three years ago,” Blodget writes, “Microsoft's Windows was still totally dominant—the platform ran 70% of personal computing devices. Now, thanks to the rise of Google's Android and Apple's iOS, Windows' global share has been cut in half, to about 30%. More remarkably, Android is now a bigger platform than Windows.”

Finally, he offers a chart from analyst Horace Dediu of Asymco illustrates that the PC business is actually begging to shrink. Blodget writes, “Now that people have a choice of devices, it turns out that a full-blown personal computer is often not the most cost-effective, convenient, or simplest way to do what a user wants to do. Instead of being the center of the personal computing world, in other words, the PC is becoming a specialized office-productivity device.”

The charts are well worth a look.

Of course, Microsoft not giving up in the face of the Android onslaught. In yet another chart (the 2011 EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard), Microsoft was listed third in the world's top 50 companies by total R&D investment (after Roche and Pfizer). Google was number 36.

And IHS agrees the computer market remains important. In the report released today, the firm notes, “After wireless, computer platforms representing PCs and similar computing devices collectively represent the next-largest segment, forecast to take up 23% of OEM chip spending. China, which became the world’s biggest market for PC shipments last year, continues to account for a hefty part of PC-related chip spending even as the overall global computer market has slowed.”

IHS continues, “However, it should be noted that if the computer platforms segment is combined with the computer peripherals market, it becomes the largest single semiconductor market, beating wireless.”

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