There are some things that are easier to do with a laptop than a tablet – like typing at 100 words per minutes while balancing your device on your lap. But that hasn’t stopped tablets from selling like hotcakes.
Analysts at research firm IDC say 128 million tablets were shipped in 2012, representing a 78 percent increase over the previous year. At this rate, IDC expects more tablets to be shipped this year than desktop computers. Next year tablet shipments could be higher than notebook PC shipments.
Of course, that line is a little blurry — some tablets basically are notebook computers, albeit notebooks with removable keyboards. Asus, HP, Lenovo, Samsung Microosft, and others are offering Windows and Android tablets that you can use like a notebook when an optional keyboard is attached, but which function as slates when you leave the keyboard behind.
Still, it’s starting to look pretty clear that the “smart connected devices,” market is much more than just smartphones.
I always take the kind of numbers IDC is throwing around with a grain of salt for a few reasons:
- They’re estimates based on industry sources… but some companies don’t actually provide solid numbers, so IDC and other research firms are basically guessing to some degree.
- Shipments aren’t the same thing as sales. Just because a company ships 5 million tablets doesn’t mean customers have actually bought that many. A large number could still be sitting on store shelves. It could take a while before we actually know how popular a device is.
- Massive growth in a new product category isn’t that unusual. Sustained growth is much more important.
That last point is a doozy — it wasn’t all that long ago that analysts were looking at massive year-over-year growth in the netbook space and predicting continued growth.
Unsurprisingly, that trend didn’t continue forever.
On the one hand, tablets have a lot of things going for them. Most decent tablets offer long battery life, instant-on capabilities, and easy-to-use navigation. Some can also handle powerful games, HD video, or even productivity tasks.
On the other hand, touchscreens aren’t the perfect solution for activities that require tactile feedback. It’s tough to touch-type on a screen if you can’t feel the keys beneath your fingers. Hardcore gamers generally prefer gamepads with physical buttons for similar reasons.
While it’s entirely possible that IDC is right and that tablet sales will surpass traditional PC sales soon, I think it might be a bit early to declare the death of the PC. While tablets could eat into notebook sales to customers who don’t need a traditional PC experience, I suspect that most tablet buyers also have at least a desktop or notebook or two lying around as well.
There are also notebook computers that have screens that move around so they could be used as a tablet computer; combining the best of both devices.
I can see the appeal of both tablet computers and notebook computers. Since both might be considered ‘personal computers’, one can not really one will eliminate the other. I agree in that it is premature to say one will eliminate the other.
It is like saying Apple vs PC when Apple is a ‘personal computer’ and PC does not just cover Windows but all those operating systems that one can run on a personal computer (or IBM compatible computer).
I found your article to be very informative and insightful.
I think you did an excellent job putting tablets in perspective, especially for such a brief article. I have only one minor disagreement:
“I suspect that most tablet buyers also have at least a desktop or notebook or two lying around as well.”
In the US, yes, I think that is true. In some other parts of the world I suspect that a cheap android tablet may be used as a first computer; something to buy for the family that owns a cell phone or two but no computer yet.
Excellent point. And tablets can usually be supplemented by BlueTooth or USB keyboards/mice from mini to full size to get around the problem of head-down work productivity. Many have video out allowing a large monitor/TV to be used as well.
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