from Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi, a research vice president and the market analysis firm, will startle long-time computer users: essentially, Microsoft's long reign at the top of the technological heap is over
. The company predicts devices using Apple's iOS and OS X will outsell devices running the various forms of Windows (including mobile) by 2015 -- even including business and enterprise sales that have traditionally been a stronghold for the Redmond giant. However, it will be Google -- not Apple -- taking the crown from Microsoft.
To paint a picture of how rapidly the shift to mobile devices, tablets and other trends has hit Microsoft, Gartner -- which uses shipment data
to base its claims, because companies other than Apple don't reveal actual sales figures -- said that in 2012 there were 347 million Windows machines shipped, compared to 213 million Apple devices. By next year, that 134 million device lead will be cut down to 23 million, and by 2015 Apple's combined iOS and OS X sales should surpass the total number of new devices running Windows (both RT and Pro) or Windows Phone. In the consumer market, says Milanesi, Apple is already outselling Microsoft.
The change might be surprising to those who grew up in the early days of personal computing, pre- and post-Internet. Perhaps less surprising to younger users, however, will be the prediction that -- again based on shipments only rather than sales -- Google's Android will likely eclipse the combined shipments of Apple and
Microsoft in terms of OS licenses. Devices using Android are expected to number 867 million by the end of the year, while the combined shipments of Apple and Windows products will likely amount to 636 million (Gartner is likely including millions of Kindle Fire and Chinese-brand devices that run forked versions of Android not formally connected to Google in its estimates).
Gartner also predicts that Android shipments will top 1 billion sometime in 2014, however it should be noted that the company is predicting more traction on Android (and Windows-based) tablets as part of this claim, believing total tablet shipments will jump from 120 million last year to 202 million this year and 276 million in 2014. While that may turn out to be accurate, analysts have been saying for years that competition in the tablet space would eat into Apple's dominance -- and while in terms of shipments that has certainly come about, when measuring end-user sales
indicators like web activity, app downloading, ad serving and other measures, Apple's iPad continues to hold onto just under 90 percent
of active users.
Milanesi said that Gartner expects smartphones to grow as well, reaching 1.9 billion shipped by 2014, but that desktop and notebook PCs will fall 11 percent this year and another five percent the following year. The analyst firm believes that "ultramobile" computers, mostly referring to combination tablet/notebooks that feature touchscreens and can be separated for mobile use, will catch on big with enterprise users over the next few years. This is the approach taken particularly by Windows device makers, whereas Apple has (thus far) promulgated cloud syncing among multiple devices as its preferred approach.
is actually engaged in a test related to this trend
, albeit on the consumer side. Courtesy of an 18-inch tablet/notebook provided by Dell, one of our staff is gauging how such devices will integrate into an extended family setup that covers everyone from seniors to toddlers. Thus far, getting used to the changes in Windows 8 and the limited battery life of the tablet portion of the device have been the main focus.
Even though Microsoft's Windows will soon no longer be the dominate operating system used on electronic devices, that doesn't mean the software giant is finished. Milanesi says Windows will "remain an important operating system" thanks to its large installed base for the foreseeable future. Overall, Gartner believes the "device" market in general will continue to rise from 2.3 billion units this year to 2.5 billion in 2014 -- at least in terms of shipments.