Calling it a "significant milestone" Canalys, said its official - in 2011 Smartphones out sold the once mighty client PC, according to a recent study from the market analysis company, that reported its 2011 shipment results on Friday. The Palo Alto, CA based group said that in Q4′11, vendors shipped 158.5M smartphones (up 57% over the same quarter 2010 numbers), pushing total global growth to 62.7% on shipments of 488M for the year, moving above and beyond global PC shipments.."
Meanwhile, the global PC market grew just 14.8% for the year with a total of 414.6M units sold in 2011-and that number includes the hot tablet (iPad) category that by itself grew 274% and accounted for 15% of all client PC units sold in the year. Without the Pad category included, total shipments for PCs was at 351.4M units, based on the Canalys numbers.
Canalys said this definitively addresses the issue of tablets not taking market share from smartphones, as company VP Chris Jones said: "…pads have had negligible impact on smartphone volumes and markets across the globe have seen persistent and substantial growth through 2011. Smartphone shipments overtaking those of client PCs should be seen as a significant milestone."
Huge sales volumes, technology advancements in processor and sensor technology, plus the advent of the humble App, has taken the smartphone from niche product status to mass-market status. Smartphones generate billions of downloads and they dominate independent software development from gaming to navigation, to complex social engagement to simple egg timers-and, oh yes, the app that some say started it all, music.
According to IHS iSuppli, top of the heap for the quarter was Apple, as the fruited logo company reasserted its dominance in the global smartphone space with remarkable sales of 37M smartphones in the last quarter of 2011, up from 17M in Q2′11. This was due to the launch of its fifth generation iPhone4S in mid October (10-14-2011). However, Korea-based Samsung, not Apple, takes the 2011 full-year top seller honors, edging out the iPhone by just 2M units overall. Samsung’s full-line of smartphone products shipped 95M units (with annual growth of 278%) to Apple’s 93M units (on yearly growth of 96%), the research company reported.
Perhaps more remarkable in the data is the growth of tablets and demise of the once popular netbooks (see chart). Tablets (Pads) were up 274% for the year (and 186% for the quarter) on shipments of 63.2M units, while netbooks fell to just 6.7M units (down 32.4%) for the quarter, shipping a total of just under 30M units overall for 2011 - down a whopping 25% for the year.
In Q4′11 desktops also experienced negative growth (-3.6%), but did manage to squeak out 2.3% overall growth for the year. The big seller (and big unknown) in the space are notebooks, including the new category "Ultrabooks" that represent the lion’s share (almost 50%) of the PC market. A recent Digitimes story revealed that Acer, Lenovo, HP and others were dropping prices in North America to help clear inventory for the soon-to-launch next generation Ultrabooks that will feature the new Ivy Bridge Intel processor. Intel intends to capture 40% of the chip market for notebooks by the end of 2012, but to get there some analysts see prices dropping to sub-$700 from their $1K level today.
Meanwhile, Apple and other tablet makers are busy with next generation launch plans, which include cloud-based solutions and the mobility benefits (instant-on, gesture and voice input et al.) of a slate over clamshell form factor. Enterprise level IT departments are also quickly adapting to iPad and other tablet options, with new solutions to the BYOD (bring your own device) trend now overtaking business computing. Overall, the new "U" category is not a slam-dunk and with growth in the triple digits for tablets and Pads, Intel and company may have an uphill climb in simply maintaining market share in the notebook category that grew just 7.5% last year. - Steve Sechrist
Note: see expanded story in this month’s Mobile Display Report that publishes on Feb. 15th.