By Natasha Lomas
The unstoppable rise of smartphones and tablets will see 1.2 billion of the devices being bought worldwide next year, analyst Gartner is predicting. It also forecasts sales of 821 million of the smart devices this year — which is says will account for 70 percent of total devices sold in 2012.
While businesses have traditionally lagged consumer markets when it comes to adopting new devices, tablet sales to businesses are set to grow substantially in the coming years, according to Gartner. It’s predicting tablet purchases by businesses will grow 3x by 2016 — describing slates as “they key accelerator to mobility” for enterprises. Tablet purchases by businesses will reach 13 million units this year, says Gartner, more than tripling by 2016 to reach 53 million units.
When it comes to the OS wars, the analyst forecasts Microsoft’s Windows 8 will take the number three position in the business tablet market by 2016 — lagging Apple and Android. It says the share of Windows 8 tablets and ultramobiles in businesses will reach 39 percent in 2016, adding that tablets and convertibles will be “the way into businesses for Windows 8″ — enterprises being more wary of upgrading Windows on desktop PCs.
“For most businesses smartphones and tablets will not entirely replace PCs, but the ubiquity of smartphones and the increasing popularity of tablets are changing both the way consumers embrace devices and business device strategies,” noted Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner, in a statement.
The analyst predicts two-thirds of the mobile workforce will own a smartphone in 2016, and 40 percent of the workforce will be mobile.
On the smartphone side, Gartner is forecasting a win for Android in the enterprise – estimating that more than half (56 percent) of smartphones purchased by businesses in North America and Europe will be Android devices in 2016, up from around a third (34 percent) in 2012 – and virtually no penetration back in 2010.
“Today the wide range of brands and price points that the Android ecosystem offers is winning over users. While Apple remains the heartbeat by which the market moves, Google has rapidly become its archrival,” said Milanesi.
Despite Android’s growth, Gartner said it believes iOS-based devices will continue to grow their enterprise presence, and both Android and iOS will continue to take share from BlackBerry-maker RIM. “In just 12 months businesses have moved from resisting Apple to accepting its devices in the organisation,” noted Milanesi. ”As businesses are looking for a multi-device strategy and a rich application portfolio it is clear that RIM has a huge challenge ahead to regain its strong presence in the enterprise.”