Smartphones, tablets to remain the screen stars
The Year of the Horse will see consumers worldwide continue to focus on smartphones and media tablets, as manufacturers trot out bigger displays on these devices.
Many of those new models are expected to be featured at the annual International Consumer Electronics Show, scheduled to run from tomorrow until Friday in Las Vegas, and at the Mobile World Congress, which will be held from February 24 to 27 in Barcelona.
With demand for smartphones and tablets still on the rise, global sales of personal computers are expected to remain sluggish this year.
Combined market forecasts from Barclays, IDC and Gartner show that global smartphone shipments, led by handsets that run Google's Android operating system, are expected to rise 30 per cent to a record high 1.24 billion units this year, from an estimated 953.89 million last year.
Worldwide tablet shipments are predicted to grow 17 per cent this year to a record 244.79 million units, up from an estimated 208.62 million last year when Apple's iPad continued to lead this market segment.
In a Barclays report last week, lead author Kirk Yang, the company's head of technology hardware research for Asia, excluding Japan, said: "With no imminent changes in the global PC industry, we expect PC shipments to again decline year on year."
Global shipments of notebook and desktop personal computers will fall 8 per cent this year to 286.81 million units, down from an estimated 312 million last year, according to combined market forecasts from Barclays, IDC and Gartner.
Yang pointed out that the sharp decrease in personal computer shipments began in 2012, when consumer sales of tablets started to grow significantly.
The demand for personal computers has also been challenged by the increased popularity of "phablets", he said.
A phablet, which is a portmanteau of the words "phone" and "tablet", represents a new smartphone category that features large screens with a diagonal measurement as big as 7 inches.
Barclays credited Lenovo, the world's largest supplier of personal computers, for being "the only PC company that has managed to successfully expand into the new product areas" of smartphones and tablets.
Koh Kong Meng, a Lenovo vice-president and general manager of its East Asia operations, said that the company was "seriously considering entering the phablet market".
Yang said that Apple might also follow this trend and unveil two phablets, the anticipated iPhone 6 in the third quar-ter and the iPhone 6s early next year.
He said Apple was also expected to introduce a new iPad with a 12.9-inch screen and a keyboard, which is widely speculated to replace its MacBook Air product line.
IDC said in a report that the global market "has trended toward small tablets in a big way over the last 24 months, but the rise of large phones could well push consumers back to larger tablets as the difference between a 6-inch smartphone and a 7-inch tablet isn't great enough to warrant purchasing both".