“Microsoft faces a slide into irrelevance in the next four years unless it can make progress in the smartphone and tablet markets, because the PC market will continue shrinking, warns the research group Gartner,” Charles Arthur reports for The Guardian. “It says a huge and disruptive shift is underway, in which more and more people will use a tablet as their main computing device, researchers say. That will also see shipments of Android devices dwarf those of Windows PCs and phones by 2017. Microsoft-powered device shipments will almost be at parity with those of Apple iPhones and iPads – the latter a situation not seen since the 1980s.”

Arthur reports, “In a new forecast published on Thursday morning, Gartner says that by 2015 shipments of tablets will outstrip those of conventional PCs such as desktops and notebooks, as Android and Apple’s iOS become increasingly dominant in the overall operating system picture… Latest figures suggest that Windows Phone, its smartphone OS, shipped on about 3% of devices in fourth quarter of 2012, compared to 20% for Apple’s iPhone and over 70% for Android – of which 50% connected to Google’s servers and 20% were ‘white box’ Android phones in China which do not use Google services.”

“Microsoft could then face the vicious circle where developers considering which platform to develop apps for look at those with the largest user base – and that that will not be Windows. By 2017, she says, the number of devices being shipped with iOS, both iPhones and iPads, will be close to that with Windows and Windows Phone combined,” Arthur reports. “‘And that’s not assuming that Apple launches a low-end iPhone,’ Milanesi says. ‘Our numbers for Apple are conservative, because for a low-end phone it would be a guess about what price point it would use, and what the timing would be.’ A number of observers have suggested that Apple will launch a lower-cost iPhone in the next year to capture a larger market share, especially in the pre-pay (pay-as-you-go) market.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Can’t happen soon enough! :-)