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Why laptop makers should be focusing on tablets now

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Laptop makers not focused on producing attractive tablets may want to re-evaluate that strategy. According to an IDC report on Monday, tablets will begin to outsell portable PCs in 2015. This forecast further emphasizes the massive shift toward mobile, which has been underway for several years: Smartphones began outselling PCs last year and will easily continue to do so as consumers and enterprises do more computing on the go.

This is why the traditional computer makers, and Microsoft(s msft) now that it sells its own Surface slate, should focus more efforts on tablet design and optimization. The desktop PC market hasn’t gone away, but the growth in it has. IDC’s forecast suggests that the same will happen in the laptop market, which will be usurped by tablets. Many PC makers were either late to the mobile device game, or not part of it at all, and have watched sales dollars filter to those making smartphones at first, and now tablets.

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Of course, the unit revenue for mobile devices may be less than that of a desktop or laptop. IDC says the entire industry will see average sales price of devices “drop from $534 in 2011 to $378 in 2016.” That means computer makers will have to make up the difference in volume and the best chance to do that is by seizing momentum early, much as Apple(s aapl) did with its iPad.

Although it’s difficult to look forward several years in the device market, I believe that IDC’s general prediction is correct. In my opinion, it may be too conservative. Yes, desktops and laptops are still heavily in use, but that’s mainly because they support a legacy model of computing and will need to do so for some time to come. That model is changing.

Additionally, tablet hardware is improving quickly, and perhaps more importantly, so are the applications that run on tablets. Activities that once sounded absurd on a tablet just two or three years ago are now possible on an iPad, Android(s goog) slate or Windows RT device. Instead of looking back at “old-school computing,” laptop makers should be looking ahead at potential software and cloud services that tablets will benefit from.

7 Responses to “Why laptop makers should be focusing on tablets now”

  1. Mobile tablets are great, I have an ipad mini. By the time I get home at night I want the full screen of a 27″ Mac. Give me a way to drop a mini into docking station ( doubling as a charger) and a full size keyboard. Then you can start phasing out the desktop model.

    Time forces everyone to need larger print and viewing areas, even people under 40. You’ll see what I’m saying in due time

  2. I don’t believe laptops or even desktops will disappear anytime soon. There will always be a market for workstation-class performance, just as there will be for the sub-13 inch ultraportable notebook. Smartphone sales have already saturated the U.S. to the point that they are no longer growing, and the same trend will happen with tablets. Manufacturers cannot expect consumers to throw out hundreds of dollars every year on the latest mobile toy when the traditional PC can last 3-5 years. Factor in as well the high price of 4G in the U.S. compared to countries in Asia/Europe, coverage holes, capped data plans and 2-year contracts. Suddenly that mobile picture doesn’t look all that rosy.

    Sometimes I think researchers and analysts (along with the suits who pay them) are like goldfish living in an aquarium – they don’t have the faintest idea what real life is out in the open sea.

  3. Albert Hartman

    And if they’re smart, they should look at adding cellphone capabilities to their tablets. Pretty soon people will carry only one mobile device. Cellphone radios need to be built in because soon people won’t want to carry 2 mobile devices when a single one will do.

  4. Mobile computing hasn’t grown so exponentially because it’s mobile. It will surpass traditional, stationary computing because the mobile interface hides the “computer” part and reveals only the application, or rather the action that the person wants to do. Mobile computing is really UI 3.0 (where 1.0 = CLI based, 2.0 = desktop based).

    this is my theory at least.

    While the hip crowd is extremely mobile and reconfigures their tumblr page while on the bus, the majority of folks love their phones and tablets because they do not use a windows/icon/mouse highly configurable paradigm.

    While I proudly count myself among the folks who like using computers, most people don’t – and that explains mobile’s success.

  5. Yeah…because I don’t need a laptop to get work done anymore…right. Tablets are cool for specific activities, but they simply will not replace a laptop for heavy content creation.

    Think about, Microsoft was bragging about being to have 2 apps open at the same time…2!

    A quick count shows me with Outlook, IM, Viso, Powerpoint, 2 instances of Excel along with the usual browser activity and I am moving content between on a regular basis.

    I get that these technology continues to evolve but the input layer is significantly hobbled and the OS is still primitive for multi-tasking.

  6. The focus should be on computing devices not any specific form factor,tablets could be gone in a few years if the screen tech evolves or wearable tech takes over.Anyone focusing on tablets now will be behind the curve.
    For tablets everybody wants to make them they just are afraid to make their bets on an OS.They went Android then about 1 year ago they put the breaks on it and started waiting for Win RT only to realize that Win RT is not a good idea (no software ecosystem and uncompetitive pricing).The truth is that few in the PC industry are used to taking risks,some like Asus and Lenovo are more innovative but most are just stuck in their fears and indecision.Sony is trying but they fail at execution and their pricing is rather high.