Gartner came out with its predictions for the tablet market through 2016 yesterday.If they’re right, Microsoft’s tablet ambitions will fail, placing the entire company in jeopardy.
According to Gartner’s stats, Microsoft will have only 8% of the tablet market in 2013, the first year after Windows 8’s assumed release date, and only 12% by 2016. The iPad will dominate, with Android coming close behind.
Here’s the chart from Gartner, via TechCrunch:
Left unsaid: some — if not most — of the tablets sold over the next four years will replace a potential PC sale. That already seems to be happening — PC sales for the last year have been flat or slightly down, while the iPad has taken off.
So let’s be optimistic for Microsoft and assume that only 50% of the tablets sold in 2016 replace PCs.
That means 185 million tablets will be bought instead of PCs.
Microsoft will get 44 million of those tablet sales with Windows 8 and Windows On ARM (its special version of Windows only for tablets).
But even then, that means that 141 million non-Windows tablets will be sold in place of what probably would have been Windows PCs.
Will that mean an absolute DECLINE in Windows PC sales? Hard to know — PC sales might pick up again, particularly in developing countries with fast-growing middle classes like Brazil and China. It’s possible that absolute Windows sales will continue to grow even as it loses market share. That would allow Microsoft’s Windows business to look like it’s doing fine in terms of revenue and profit.
But that market share loss is important. As more businesses bring in non-Windows devices for workers, Microsoft can no longer leverage Windows to sell business apps like Office, Exchange (email), SharePoint (collaboration), Lync (videoconferencing), its Windows Phone mobile platform, and infrastructure apps like Windows Server and SQL Server.
It means that Microsoft will either have to make sure all its apps work equally well with other platforms — particularly the iPad and Android tablets — or cede a significant part of the market to platform-agnostic competitors like Google Apps and the crop of hungry enterprise startups like Box and Salesforce.
This is exactly the kind of nightmare scenario Windows 8 is supposed to prevent.
All that said, Gartner’s predictions should be taken with many grains of salt: after all, this is the company that predicted Windows Phone would have about 11% smartphone market share at the end of 2012, and would pass the iPhone by 2015. So far, one quarter into 2012, that’s nowhere close to happening.