Worldwide sales of smartphones and tablets will soar past the 1 billion-unit threshold in 2013, while the Android, Apple iOS, and Windows 8 operating systems will spark a multiyear surge in mobile device purchases by businesses, the information technology research and consulting company Gartner forecast Tuesday.
In a news release issued in conjunction with the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo 2012 in Barcelona, Spain, Gartner projected that global sales of tablets and smartphones will total 821 million units this year, then jump nearly 50%, to 1.2 billion, in 2013. Smart devices will account for 70% of all mobile device sales next year, Gartner said.
The rise of smartphones and tablets will fuel an increase in the percentage of the workforce able to do jobs remotely. By 2016, 40% of the workforce will be mobile, and two-thirds of those employees will own smartphones, Gartner said.
“For most businesses, smartphones and tablets will not entirely replace PCs, but the ubiquity of smartphones and the increasing popularity of tablets are changing the way businesses look at their device strategies and the way consumers embrace devices,” said Carolina Milanesi, a Gartner research vice president, in a written statement.
Futurist Daniel Burrus, who spoke Monday to accountants at the CCH Connections User Conference in San Diego, said smartphones and tablets will become workers’ primary computers. Burrus ranked that shift as No. 8 among his top 20 tech trends for 2013.
Overwhelming consumer demand to use personal smart devices—most notably Apple’s iPhone and iPad—in the workplace has resulted in a dramatic attitude adjustment among the IT leaders in large enterprises, Gartner said. “In just 12 months, businesses have moved from resisting Apple to accepting its devices in the organization,” Milanesi said.
While Apple will continue to build on its strong presence in the business market, Gartner predicts, Google’s Android will surge to the forefront among smartphone operating systems, and Microsoft’s Windows 8 will claim a sizable share of the growing business market for tablets. The loser on both fronts will be Research in Motion’s BlackBerry, which Gartner expects to continue losing ground in a market it once dominated.
“As businesses are looking for a multidevice strategy and a rich application portfolio, it is clear that RIM has a huge challenge ahead in regaining its key presence in the enterprise,” Milanesi said.
Gartner foresees tablet sales to businesses more than tripling from 13 million this year to 53 million in 2016. Over that period, business interest in Windows 8 tablets and convertibles (devices that can be used as a laptop and as a tablet) will help Microsoft secure third place, behind Apple and Android, in the overall tablet market. Among businesses, Windows 8 tablets and ultrabooks will claim 39% of the market in 2016, according to Gartner.
Also by 2016, smartphones running on the Android OS will represent 56% of all smartphone sales to businesses in North America and Europe, up from 34% in 2012 and virtually no penetration in 2010.
“Today the wide range of brands and price points that the Android ecosystem is offering is winning over users,” Milanesi said. “While Apple remains the heartbeat by which the market moves, Google has rapidly become its archrival.”
— Jeff Drew ( email@example.com ) is a JofA senior editor.