Annual computer sales to pass 1 billion by 2014

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The rise and rise of smartphones and tablets will help double the shipment of computers around the world in just five years, according to new research.

A total of 500 million computers, from desktop PCs to laptops and smartphones, were shipped in 2009. The accountancy group Deloitte predicts that will rise to 1.1 billion in 2014.

Paul Lee, the director of technology, media and telecom (TMT) research at Deloitte, said: "Computing is becoming more portable. At the same time people are not substituting one device for another, they are accumulating." In three years, smartphones "will dominate" sales, while tablets will sell around half that of netbooks, Mr Lee said.

The firm has predicted that this year will be the first time smartphones such as the iPhone, BlackBerry and Android devices, along with tablets such as the iPad, will outsell the traditional desktop computers, laptops and netbooks.

It said last week that while PC sales would hit almost 400 million, smartphones, tablets and non PC netbooks would sell "well over" that figure. The company believes 2011 may mark the tipping point away from standard PC devices to a series of different machines, with different chips and at least five different operating systems.

This does not mean the "era of the PC is over," Deloitte said. "Traditional PCs will still be the workhorse computing platform for most of the globe in 2011." Sales of PCs are still expected to rise 15 per cent over last year.

The popularity of tablets is set to rise, with the potential launch of the second generation iPad,as well as a host of competitors coming to market, many of which were displayed at industry show CES in Las Vegas this month. Mr Lee said: "Until now the demand was driven by consumers, but we will increasingly see businesses use tablets." Deloitte believes about a quarter of tablets sold this year will be to companies.

Deloitte's TMT forecasts for the new year also predict sales of 400 million smartphones with forward-facing cameras; yet the firm still does not believe that video calls will take off yet. "The technology, which was first demonstrated in 1964, does not yet appear ready for the mass market," Deloitte said. "People are just not yet ready to make video a regular part of their lives".

Another crucial theme for the year, according to Mr Lee, will be the demand for mobile data over Wi-Fi rather than 3G networks. There will be 25 per cent to 50 per cent more data passing through Wi-Fi hotspots than mobile networks next year, it predicted. This comes as the number of public hotspots is set to rise by a fifth in 2011.

A tale of two sites: Social network fortunes in 2011

The contrasting fortunes of two of the biggest names in social networking were laid bare yesterday, following predictions that advertising revenues at Facebook would soar to $4bn, while those at MySpace would fall to $184m.

The research group eMarketer estimated that ad sales at Facebook worldwide would more than double from last year's $1.86bn, when it accounted for 4.7 per cent of US online advertising spending. This year the share is expected to rise to 7.8 per cent.

Facebook is going from strength to strength after a recent funding round valued it at $50bn and its founder Mark Zuckerberg was named Time person of the year. eMarketer's principal analyst, Debra Aho Williamson, said: "2010 was the year that Facebook firmly established itself as a major force, not only in social network advertising, but all of online advertising." While US ad revenues at the site are expected to outweigh the international contribution this year, Ms Williamson predicts that in 2012 the predicted $5.74bn revenues will be evenly split. Yet, the decline at MySpace, which has driven parent News Corporation to consider selling it off, will see advertising revenues drop from $288m in 2010 to $184m this year, eMarketer said. In 2009, the group had revenues of $470m predominantly from the US.