Smartphones to dominate PCs in Gartner forecast

The research firm's crystal ball sees smartphones overtaking PCs as the way to access the Web by 2013--and 6.5 billion mobile connections by 2014.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
3 min read

Gazing into the future with Gartner, what can we expect in the world of tech?

The research firm recently revealed its forecast for 2010 and beyond, envisioning a world where more of us live and breathe online and more often through our smartphones than our PCs.

Although the predictions target Gartner's corporate clients, most will certainly affect smaller businesses and consumers too.

"As organizations make plans to navigate the economic recovery and prepare for the return to growth, our predictions for 2010 focus on the impact of critical changes in the balance of control and power in IT," Brian Gammage, a Gartner vice president, said in a statement. "With greater financial and regulatory oversight for all IT investment decisions, few organizations will be unaffected."

With virtualization and cloud computing gaining more of a grip on the business world, up to 20 percent of companies will own no IT assets of their own by 2012, predicts Gartner. Also driving this future will be the trend of employees using their own personal PCs on the job. As technology ownership shifts toward third parties, Gartner expects that IT budgets will likely dwindle or be refocused onto more critical and strategic projects. Support staff may also need to be cut or retrained to focus on the new business requirements.

Although social networks will continue to develop, Gartner says, Facebook will become the main hub for social networking in 2012, especially as it continues to grow and outpace most other networks. Facebook Connect, which lets third-party Web sites around the world integrate into Facebook, will help drive much of this growth, says Gartner.

By 2013, mobile phones could easily surpass PCs as the way most people hop onto the Web. Gartner's statistics show that the total number of PCs will reach 1.78 billion in three years, while the number of smartphones and Web-enabled phones will shoot past 1.82 billion units and continue to climb after that. This trend will force more Web sites to revamp their pages to make them easier to surf on a mobile gadget.

More than 3 billion people in the world will bank and shop online by 2014, thanks to advances in technology and growing Internet use among emerging markets, Gartner forecasts. Although cash won't be going away anytime soon, a base for electronic commerce will be firmly entrenched within the next four years. With 6.5 billion mobile connections expected by 2014, Gartner notes that not everyone with a mobile phone will conduct business online, but that all will have the ability to do so.

By 2014, most IT projects for new PCs and servers will include the costs for curbing carbon emissions, Gartner expects. Many projects already incorporate projected savings in the cost of energy, which can help get them approved. But with increased political and economic pressure to lower the carbon footprint of IT hardware, vendors will soon have to provide details on the carbon lifecycle of their products.

Finally, Gartner predicts, consumers fed up with spam will force Internet marketing to be regulated by 2015. With more than $250 billion forecast to be spent on online marketing by that time, the industry will have to face new regulations to hawk products in cyberspace. And many who rely solely on Internet marketing today may have to redirect their advertising dollars to other avenues.