Microsoft faces a slide into irrelevance in the next four years unless it can make progress in the smartphone and tablet markets, because the PC market will continue shrinking, warns the research group Gartner.
It says a huge and disruptive shift is underway, in which more and more people will use a tablet as their main computing device, researchers say.
That will also see shipments of Android devices dwarf those of Windows PCs and phones by 2017. Microsoft-powered device shipments will almost be at parity with those of Apple iPhones and iPads - the latter a situation not seen since the 1980s.
In a new forecast published on Thursday morning, Gartner says that by 2015 shipments of tablets will outstrip those of conventional PCs such as desktops and notebooks, as Android and Apple's iOS become increasingly dominant in the overall operating system picture. Android in particular will be installed on more than a billion devices shipped in 2014, says Carolina Milanesi, the analyst who led the research.