Windows 8 is a make or break product launch for Microsoft. Windows will endure a slow start as traditional PC users delay upgrades, while those eager for Windows tablets jump in. After a slow start in 2013, Windows 8 will take hold in 2014, keeping Microsoft relevant and the master of the PC market, but simply a contender in tablets, and a distant third in smartphones.
Microsoft has long dominated PC units, with something more than 95% sales. The incremental gains of Apple’s Mac products over the last five years haven’t really changed that reality. But the tremendous growth of smartphones, and then tablets, has. If you combine all the unit sales of personal devices, Microsoft’s share of units has shrunk drastically to about 30% in 2012.
It’s hard to absorb the reality of the shift without a picture, so in the report “Windows: The Next Five Years,” we estimated and forecast the unit sales of PCs, smartphones, and tablets from 2008 to 2016 to create a visual. As you can see below in the chart of unit sales, Microsoft has and will continue to grow unit sales of Windows and Windows Phone. But the mobile market grew very fast in the last five years, while Microsoft had tiny share in smartphones and no share in tablets.
If you look at the results by share of all personal devices, below, you can see how big a shift happened over the last five years as smartphone units exploded and the iPad took hold.
Since the beginning of the year (with a peak in July, thanks to this Bloomberg article), there have been rumors that Apple would launch an iPad mini with a 7.85-inch display. Speculation is now high that the launch could be announced October 17 — a week prior to the big Microsoft buzz about Windows 8 and in due time for the holiday rush and the seasonal year-end sales — in an attempt to lock new tablet buyers in to the iOS ecosystem. The biggest iPad mini conundrum is likely to be pricing — making sure that the new device remains competitive in the face of the iPad 2 and iPad 3 and the newly launched iPod Touch but also with Google's $199 Nexus 7 and the new $199 Kindle Fire HD. Don’t count on me to comment on rumors and share my personal take on the features the device could have, etc. Some of my colleagues are better placed than I am to make a call and will do so in due time.
Let’s step back from the hype for one moment.
It took two years for Apple to sell 67 million iPads versus 24 years to sell 67 million Macs. It took the company two years to sell one million iPods. Arguably, the iPod, coupled with the iTunes ecosystem, disrupted the music industry. Needless to say, new connected devices — mostly smartphones and tablets — will be even more disruptive. Forrester forecasts an installed base of 760 million tablets globally by 2016, and my colleague Frank Gillett has explained why we believe that tablets will run the personal computing landscape at work and at home.