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Global Market Outlook for Smart Connected Devices

According to the latest market study by International Data Corporation (IDC), the worldwide market for smart connected devices -- that's a combination of PCs, smartphones, and tablets -- reached 267.3 million units shipped in the second quarter of 2012 (2Q12), a 27.4 percent increase year over year and a 2.8 percent quarter-over-quarter improvement.

Both consumers and business buyers around the world continue to show an appetite for these client devices, adding to the already large collection of devices that are still in active use. On a revenue basis, the total was $131.5 billion worldwide, a 16.3 percent year-over-year increase, but a 2.7 percent quarter-over-quarter decline.

In the U.S. market, it's clear that not only PCs but smart connected devices as a whole are facing a difficult time as both unit shipments and revenues declined on both a year-over-year and a quarter-over-quarter basis.

Unit shipments for 2Q12 fell 7.8 percent sequentially and 5 percent annually to just under 47.4 million units. Revenues for the combined categories slipped to $24.8 billion, that's a 10.3 percent sequential and 8.6 percent annual drop.

The incredibly fast ramp for tablets and smartphones in the U.S. has clearly started to slow as overall macroeconomic conditions and a degree of saturation have begun to impact the American marketplace.

Looking forward, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2012 to 2016 will be 14 percent for total smart connected devices. Smartphones will already represent over 59 percent of smart connected device shipments in 2012 and will grow by nearly 15.8 percent annually, approaching 63 percent of device shipments in 2016.

Tablets will see the fastest growth, rising from about 10 percent share this year to 13 percent by 2016, reducing PC share from 31 percent in 2012 to 24 percent in 2016.

The Asia-Pacific market already leads in total PC and smartphone shipments, but tablet shipments have been relatively concentrated in more mature markets. EMEA is expected to gain share in tablets during the forecast while the Americas and Asia-Pacific will increase volume but capture a smaller share of the global total.

The recent shipment data clearly demonstrates that we have fully entered into the multi-device era, where individuals are buying and using multiple devices per person, most often with different combinations of operating systems.

"The implications of this development on application developers, device makers, Web service providers, businesses, and even individuals is profound," said Bob O'Donnell, program vice president for Clients and Displays at IDC.

Near term, IDC believes the worldwide total unit shipments for smart connected devices will reach nearly 1.2 billion in 2012, a 27.4 percent increase over 2011, and grow to 1.4 billion in 2013, a 19.2 percent year-over-year increase.

Looking over the longer horizon, IDC predicts the combined worldwide smart connected devices market will surpass 2 billion units in 2016. The Asia-Pacific market is expected to top well over 860 million units by 2016, stretching its lead over other regions to have the most volume.

The Americas should also experience continued growth, bringing its total device count to over 600 million by 2016 and a CAGR of 13.7 percent compared to 2012. EMEA is expected to grow at a slower pace relative to other regions, with volume totaling just over 530 million by 2016 and a CAGR of 12.6 percent.

Amidst the growth, smartphones will make up the bulk of the volume, but tablets are expected to grow the fastest at over 22 percent CAGR between 2012 and 2016. That being said, both Intel and Microsoft are likely already reassessing the negative impact from the PC sector decline on their forward-looking performance.

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