To date, there are still more installed PCs in the world than there are smartphones or tablets. Next year, that's likely to change. 

According to projections from mobile analyst Ben Evans, the number of smartphones in use around the world will pass that of PCs for the first time next year. According to a chart from Evans, the estimate of installed PCs in the world is a little north of 1.6 billion. The global install base of smartphones is near 1.3 billion and growing at a much faster clip than PCs. If you add tablets into the equation (with a tick more than 200 million installed across the world) then mobile devices are almost on par with PCs already.

Evans predicts that the total number of installed smartphones in the world will eclipse PCs in 2014 sometime in the second quarter.

Evans notes that the numbers are necessarily approximate because firm data on devices "installed"—meaning purchased, activated and used—by global consumers is difficult to pinpoint with a high degree of accuracy.

The broad stroke numbers are very easy to see. IDC predicts that 314.2 million PCs (desktop and laptop/notebook) will be shipped in 2013, down from 349.4 in 2012. That is a 10.1% shortfall year-over-year, the biggest single year drop in PC history. 

On the other end, smartphones are predicted to eclipse one billion shipments this year. IDC shows smartphone shipment growth of 39.3% year-over-year with little sign of slowing down.

IDC predicts that 1.7 billion smartphones will ship in 2017, versus estimated PC shipments of 305.1 million. Shipments, of course, don't equal sales of actual devices to consumers. It is also important to note that even sales do not mean an addition to the installed base, as many as older models are replaced by newer ones. In aggregate, the install base rises over time—just not at the rate of shipments or sales. 

The Power Of Ubiquitous Computing

The era of ubiquitous computing is upon us. Smartphones and tablets are devices that are always connected, always with us. The adoption curve of mobile devices has been astonishing in the last several years, fueled by Western consumers rushing to buy the latest and greatest smartphones. Now smartphone and tablet prices are dropping around the world, leading to a billion smartphone shipments this year.

Over the last several years, “mobile shopping” has become a big buzz term around the holidays. IBM has tracked the data for Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday for the last several years and notes that 25.8% of sales were made from a smartphone or tablet on the American holiday. On Black Friday, 21.8% of sales were through smartphones or tablets. Essentially, between one out of every four and five online sales on the biggest shopping day of the year were made by mobile devices. People have their tablets and smartphones close at hand and look online for deals. 

At some point this ceases to be a “mobile” phenomenon. Instead of “mobile shopping,” it is just “shopping” … through whatever computer happens to be close at hand. That is the power of ubiquitous computing. 

As smartphones overtake PCs globally, the notion that anything is seen as a mobile trend ceases to be important. Instead we are just all connected wherever we go by the a powerful computers in our pockets.