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Tablet shipments to surpass PCs before year's end, says analyst

By the fourth quarter, tablet shipments will reach nearly 80 million, while those of PCs will drop to 70 million to 75 million in one scenario forecast by analyst Sameer Singh.

Dell XPS One 27
Look away, Dell XPS One, look away. By the end of 2013, tablets may well be outshipping PCs like you. Sarah Tew/CNET

PC shipments may finally play second fiddle to those of tablets before the year is over, at least according to one analyst.

In one scenario outlined today by Sameer Singh, head analyst at technology incubator BitChemy Ventures, PC shipments will fall to between 70 million and 75 million in the fourth quarter, while tablet shipments would rise to almost 80 million. If so, that would be the first quarter in which tablet shipments outshine those of PCs.

In a second scenario, the crossover could happen even sooner. PC shipments could decline to around 65 million in the third quarter, while tablet shipments surpass 75 million.

Which scenario comes true, assuming either one does, depends on several factors, including the rate at which tablets are substituted for PCs. Initially, Singh believed that tablet shipments wouldn't overtake those of PCs until the first quarter of 2014. But the rate at which tablets were substituted for PCs last quarter was higher than he had anticipated.

Either way, Singh is certain the crossover will happen this year.

"These shipment estimates could be affected by the pace of of low cost tablet penetration in emerging markets and any changes to the Windows 8 operating system," the analyst said. "However, given the scale of the figures, I can say with confidence that quarterly tablet shipments should overtake those of PCs by late 2013."

Correction 5:54 a.m. PT: This article initially gave Sameer Singh's title from his previous job. Singh is now head analyst at BitChemy Ventures.

Sameer Singh