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Sales of tablets have been steadily increasing over the years, but the now-powerful mobile computers will begin to outsell desktops this year, and laptops next year, according to a new report.

The IDC smart computing report, released today, estimates that tablet sales will grow this year by 48.7 percent, while desktop sales will drop by 4.3 percent.

From next year tablets will even begin to outsell laptops, and this includes netbooks.

According to IDC the patterns are down sales in emerging markets, where PCs are not super common.

“In emerging markets, consumer spending typically starts with mobile phones and, in many cases, moves to tablets before PCs,” said IDC research analyst Megha Saini.

Apple also almost caught up to Samsung in terms of shipments in Q4 2012, showing a potential tightening in competition between the two companies.

In Q4 2012, Apple had a 20.3% unit shipment share, nearly catching up to Samsung’s 21.2% shipment share. However, in terms of revenue, Apple is still the leader, generating a 30.7% share of the quarter’s total revenue compared to Samsung’s 20.4%. All in all, there was a total of $168 billion in revenue generated in Q4.

The report also recognised 'smart connected devices' (smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops) surpassed 1 billion shipments in 2012, with around 1.2 billion devices being shipped worldwide.

Smart connected devices shipments grew 29.1% year-over-year in 2012, with tablet shipments playing a massive part in the shipments increase.

There was a 78.4% year-over-year growth in tablet shipments last year, with over 128 million tablets being shipped out globally.

The report also notes that tablets are expected to continue their momentum this year, with an anticipated 48.7% year-over-year increase in sales.

The momentum for smartphones, however, has been constant for a few years now although expect a bit of slow-down this year.

Around 722 million smartphones were shipped worldwide last year, with a whopping 46.1% year-over-year increase.  and is expected to have a 27.2% year-over-year increase this year. Shipments of smartphones surpassed that of tablets, desktop PCs, and laptops combined.

The desktop computer market is still doing terribly in comparison to its younger smartphone and tablet brothers, in the sole spot of 'bad news' in the report.

In 2012, Desktop PCs saw a 4.1% year-over-year decrease in shipments, with only 148.4 million PCs shipped globally.

It’s expected to continue down that trend with a 4.3% year-over-year decrease this year too, while laptops had a 3.4% year-over-year decrease last year, with only 202 million units shipped worldwide.

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David Swan

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David Swan is a tech journalist from Melbourne and is iTWire's Associate Editor. Having started off as a games reviewer at the tender age of 14, he now has a degree in Journalism from RMIT (with Honours) and owns basically every gadget under the sun. You can email him at david.swan@itwire.com or follow him at twitter.com/mrdavidswan

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