PCs, tablet shipments to be nearly even in 2014, according to Gartner data

It’s only a matter of time before tablets begin outselling traditional PCs, and that time is looking shorter and shorter these days. According to research firm Gartner, tablet shipments will pull extremely close to laptop and desktop shipments by the end of next year: it is forecasting 289 million PCs and 276 million tablets shipped in 2014. In other words, the transition to a more post-PC world should be complete by 2015.

Buyers’ preferences are shifting quickly: just last year 341 million PCs shipped, compared to 120 million tablets. Gartner says it’s expecting a pretty big drop-off in PCs by the end of 2013, with 305 million shipped. Meanwhile tablet shipments will continue to soar with 201 million this year.

Gartner 2014 mobile device forecast

Gartner went further in its Q2 2013 report about worldwide device use, and predicted which operating systems would be on most of those devices.

Gartner OS forecast 2014

Android(s GOOG) is — no surprise — predicted to be the winner overall, shipping on over 1 billion devices in 2014. That includes PCs, smartphones, tablets and ultramobile devices (which Gartner defines as Chromebooks and other thin, hybrid devices). Windows(s MSFT) is expected at No. 2, with Apple’s(s aapl) iOS and OS X operating systems together at No. 3, predicted to be on 354 million devices shipped by the end of next year.

While iOS/OS X will be far behind Android’s smartphones and tablet presence and Windows’ inherent advantage in PCs, Gartner makes an interesting point in how it’s comparing these categories.  Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi points out that as this shift is taking place, Apple is the only company in the top three with a serious presence in all three top device categories.

“Although the numbers seem to paint a clear picture of who the winner will be when it comes to operating systems (OS) in the device market (see Table 2), the reality is that today ecosystem owners are challenged in having the same relevance in all segments,” said Ms. Milanesi. “Apple is currently the more homogeneous presence across all device segments, while 90 percent of Android sales are currently in the mobile phone market and 85 percent of Microsoft sales are in the PC market.”

The reason Android is growing exponentially is largely because of its presence on cheaper smartphones and tablets. Apple’s iOS and OS X devices are forecast to grow a great deal as well — by 142 million devices from the end of 2012 to the end of 2014 — but that number could balloon even higher should Apple sell smartphones and tablets  — and even laptops — in an even wider variety of prices, including more on the low-end.