Last month we published a preliminary version of the chart above, showing the unit sales trends for traditional PCs through the third quarter of the year. In short, it’s still a giant market, with more than 87 million PC shipments worldwide in the latest quarter. But it’s also a flat or declining market, experiencing an 8 percent drop in unit shipments compared with the same quarter the previous year, according to data from the IDC research firm.
This week IDC released its tablet shipment numbers, giving us a clearer sense for what’s happening overall. As you can see our updated chart above, tablet shipments rose nearly 50 percent in the third quarter, when compared to the same period last year.
Tying the two trends together, here’s the more interesting stat: In terms of unit sales, the tablet market is now nearly 32 percent the size of the traditional PC market — the highest percentage on record. More and more people seem to be opting for tablets over similarly priced Windows notebooks.
At least part of the slump in the PC market in the third quarter was thanks to people sitting on the sidelines in anticipation of Windows 8’s release two weeks ago. However, that dynamic was also a factor in the tablet market, as people waited for Apple’s iPad mini announcement. You can see the effect in the iPad trendline, but what’s interesting is that the overall tablet is still rising thanks to Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Samsung’s Android-based tablets.
The numbers are from before Windows 8 and Surface. Did the world change on Oct. 26? I don’t know, but these trends will provide a big part of the answer in the quarters and years ahead.