Tablet PCS and the Decline of the Laptop
Mobile PC sales in the United States have seen increasing growth since 1990. Mobile PCs are considered all laptop, netbook, pad/tablet and other mobile PCs. In 1990, sales were just over 1 million. By 2005, sales were over 22 million and the projection for 2011 was originally 63 million (eTForecasts 2011).
They have longer battery life and always-on capabilities better than any PC — and will continue to be better at that than any ultrathin/book/Air laptop. That makes them very handy for carrying around and using frequently, casually, and intermittently even where there isn’t a flat surface or a chair on which to use a laptop.
And tablets are very good for information consumption, an activity that many of us do a lot of. Content creation apps are appearing on tablets. They’ll get a lot better as developers get used to building for touch-first interfaces, taking advantage of voice input, and adding motion gestures.
They’re even better for sharing and working in groups. There’s no barrier of a vertical screen, no distracting keyboard clatter, and it just feels natural to pass over a tablet, like a piece of paper, compared to spinning around a laptop.
“Touch first” slab computers that weigh less than 800 grams (1.75 pounds), have a 7- to 14-inch diagonal screen area, feature always-on operation, and 8-hour battery life.
These criteria are important because they are the requirements for keeping the individual in flow while using the device. Light and small enough that you don’t have to think about whether to bring it. Long enough battery life that you don’t worry about whether to bring your charger – you just charge it at night. And instantly responsive, so you don’t get irritated or distracted while waiting for it to catch up with you.
So “hybrid” devices, call them PCs or tablets, that feature a keyboard and touch do qualify as a tablet in this definition if they meet the criteria above. Some will get there by using a removable keyboard. Some may qualify by somehow fitting a keyboard into a device this size, though that may be hard. Many of the devices that are trying to be an ultrathin laptop with a touch screen won’t qualify because of greater weight or shorter battery life.
As a result of the compelling user experience of Apple’s iPad and the content-focused experience of the Amazon Kindle Fire, and other tablets, global tablets sales will continue to grow sharply over the next five years. We forecast sales rising from 56 million in 2011 to 375 million in 2016. Given that a majority of tablets will be retired within three years of purchase, we forecast that there will be 760 million tablets in use globally by 2016. One-third of these tablets will be purchased by businesses, and emerging markets will drive about 40% of sales.
Tablets and smart phones are easy to use, with touch screens being one of the simplest user interfaces imaginable. The rise of small processors has also made tablets and phones more attractive, while making laptops seem cumbersome in comparison. The only time a laptop seems appropriate for portable computing at this point is if you’re running very demanding applications, or absolutely need a keyboard (though giving a tablet a keyboard is as simple as docking it).