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PC, Tablet, and Smartphone Sales Are Slowing, and That Makes Me Want GoPro


PC sales are expected to decline, and the smartphone and tablet markets aren't doing much better.


We really are post-PC.

This week, IDC said worldwide PC shipments fell 9.8% in 2013, marking the worst decline on record.

Sales are expected to drop an additional 6.1% in 2014 to 295.9 million before falling to 291.7 million in 2018, implying an cumulative annual growth rate of negative 0.36%.

The cause? Economic pressures and competition from other devices.

Other devices, of course, means tablets and smartphones, which aren't doing as well you might expect

For full-year 2013, IDC estimated the tablet market grew by 50.6%, but there was a significant slowdown by Q4, which saw 28.2% growth.

And smartphone sales were up 39% though growth is expected to drop to 19% in 2014.

That's not a big surprise given Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone slowdown, Samsung's (OTCMKTS:SSNLF) loss of momentum in the high end, and the fact that the rest of the industry is kind of a mess.

So while we're post-PC, we may soon also be post-smartphone and post-tablet -- at least in terms of serious growth!

This is worrisome for Internet companies, which need expanding user bases.

That's why Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), through Project Loon, and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), via its rumored purchase of drone maker Titan Aerospace, want to provide Internet access to underserved emerging markets.

They have to find more bodies and the developed markets are saturated.

(Note: I'm ignoring their philanthropic efforts for the purposes of this article.)

But finding success in emerging markets has challenges for hardware makers. There is often high growth, but low or no profits. Political and economic stability is not guaranteed.

It's not even clear that a sufficient number of people will be able to afford connected devices -- many don't even have running water or reliable access to food.

But, ultimately, when I look at the challenges facing the consumer electronics industry, I think about one thing: the GoPro IPO.

We don't have financial details yet, but I suspect GoPro is booming, and that makes it a standout in a no-growth industry.

Anecdotally, it seems like lots and lots of people are buying GoPro's tough, compact, and wearable cameras and doing the company a big solid by making YouTube videos that serve as free viral marketing. (See 10 Companies Whose Customers Do the Advertising for Them)

And Amberella (NASDAQ:AMBA), which supplies video processing chips to GoPro and other camera makers, saw its revenues grow 29% last quarter.

There's lots of talk about wearable technology being the next big thing, and GoPro could shape up as the best way to play the trend.

Related links:

Android Tablets Accomplish What Apple's iPhone 5C Couldn't

The Human Cost of Amazon's Delivery System to Face Supreme Court Scrutiny

Apple Users Face Another Email Scam

Twitter: @MichaelComeau

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