Could tablets outsell PCs by next year? (Hint: yes)

At their current and expected growth rates, tablet computers are on pace to start outselling traditional form-factor PCs by the third quarter of 2013. The bold prediction comes from Horace Dediu, author of the always informative Asymco blog. Apple’s iPad(s aapl) will lead the way, with Android(s goog) tablets following and Windows 8(s msft) slates picking up steam.

As with any forward-looking predictions, certain assumptions have to be made and Dediu outlines his as such:

  • Mac sales growth will continue at 25 percent per year.
  • Windows 8 will bring only a small sales boost in 2012 as enterprises don’t rush upgrades.
  • Windows 8 tablets will account for 7 percent of all Windows PCs in the final quarter of 2012, jumping to 20 percent by 2013.
  • Yearly iPad sales growth will double this year and next.
  • Sales growth of Android tablets, including the Kindle Fire(s amzn), will still lag behind the iPad, but sees 80 percent growth a year.

Overall, I think these assumptions are generally reasonable, given the time frame of a two-year look and based on historical data. Even two years is pushing the crystal ball a bit in the mobile space as technology advances are cycling faster than 24 months, but again, Dediu’s approach makes sense.

Naysayers will be quick to point out that some activities will always require a traditional PC. I see their point when you look at CAD software, movie production or custom enterprise applications that require some computing feature not yet feasible for tablets. For these, and similar, computing needs, I agree — for now. But times are a-changing. I noted this in my GigaOM Pro report (subscription required) just last month by explaining why the PC you buy in 3 years may not be a traditional PC.

Tablet hardware is improving quickly, which brings software innovation as app developers take advantage of more processing power and graphics capabilities. Input on tablets can be a challenge, but one look at the Asus Transformer Prime and its keyboard dock offers a glimpse of current and future solutions. Remote desktop solutions abound, and some, such as OnLive, don’t even require you to have your own PC; you simply connect to one in the cloud.

Simply put: Mobile devices are enabling new economies, opportunities and functions we couldn’t envision just a handful of years ago. Ignore this trend and you’re sure to think there’s no way tablets could ever outsell PCs, let alone do so within the next two years. Look at the next generation embracing tablets, however, and you start to see that the idea isn’t so far-fetched after all.