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Summary:

It appears that it will only take five years from the iPad’s introduction for tablet sales to outpace those of traditional computers. No, tablets can’t replace PCs for everyone, but they do more than enough for many people.

lots of tablets

If you consider the start of the current tablet market to be 2010 when the iPad launched, it will have only taken five years for tablets to outsell traditional PCs. That’s the expectation from research firm Gartner, which published its latest computer sales forecast figures on Monday.

Dell Venue Pro tablets

We’ve already witnessed an overall decline in PC sales for the past 18 months but the growth rate for tablet sales is slowing as well. Put another way: Tablet sales are still on the rise, just not as quickly as they were in previous years. Gartner estimates 256 million tablets will be sold this year, which is 23.9 percent more than in 2013. By comparison, the firm says 120 million tablets were sold in 2012 and 206 million last year, which is a jump of nearly 72 percent.

Next year, Gartner figures, will see 320.9 million tablet sales compared to 316.6 million traditional PCs, ultramobile and premium notebooks, marking the first time tablets will outsell their computing ancestors.

That may not be a surprise; after all, there are many reasons for consumers and businesses to spend money on tablets as opposed to desktops and notebooks. Tablets have continued to gain functions that were once the domain of traditional computers, for example. Computers are also on longer replacement cycles by comparison. My son, for instance, uses a 2008 MacBook laptop and just said he hopes to use it through his last two years of high school before replacing it. And tablets are generally priced lower than computers, making them easier on the budget.

Does this mean tablets are replacing computers? For some, they surely are, but there are still plenty of good reasons for traditional computers to exist, ranging from legacy enterprise apps to animation in the entertainment industry.

  1. So I expect the folks at Gartner to be using tablets exclusively for their work next year.

    Oh, hang on, do these guys do real work?

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    1. Why would you expect that? They didn’t say tablets are replacing PCs.

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    2. “Real work” can and is being done on tablets. There are different kinds of “real work”. I guess people with handheld scanners don’t to real work.

      I would say that tablets are replacing what people use to do on PCs because that is all there was. They really didn’t need a PC.

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  2. Tablets won’t be replacing PC’s anytime soon from a ‘content creation’ standpoint….tablets are definitely better at content consumption though.

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    1. Toss in a keyboard (iOS and Android) and a Mouse (Android Only), then yes, they can do content creation. Think about many Chromebooks are being sold. The are not much more that.

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      1. I have a tablet and I’ve tried to do the following things on it:

        – Work on a contract (via Word)
        – Work on sales projections (via Excel)
        – Edit and prepare a video clip (that requires high end processing for multiple video clips)
        – Put together a powerpoint presentation

        All can be done on a tablet but are much easier to do on a PC – even with a tablet with an attachable mouse and PC. Maybe once tablets have more power, they can do more hardcore tasks that PC’s are better at, but for now, tablets are really just content consumption devices. How much of the tablet market actually uses keyboards or mice? Maybe less than 5%…

        Ironically, once tablets are powerful enough they likely will replace PC’s as the processing unit for multi-screen displays in an desktop environment. But at that point, they’re just a laptop/PC/ hybrid anyway…

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        1. Many companies no longer use Excel for sakes projections. They can use a Sakesfirce App or another SaaS app. Many companies don’t want employees to have full PC’s since support is more involved.

          You don’t need a Office to do ‘real work’. In fact more and more real work is being done on customized apps.

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          1. Matt, I agree that a PC is easier. But it can be done and isn’t that bad assuming the app is not 100% desktop oriented. That being said, I have app like that tHat users are using via iPad and Citrix.

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          2. Will, i agree. People tend to use a generic tool because, ignoring TCO, it cost less than a tool designed for the job. Things have improved in recent years with things like SalesForce so that there is less need for office and while not perfect, it is much better.

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