By 2017, tablets will officially outpace notebooks in sales and market share, according to estimates. With this continued growth, what fate befalls the venerable notebook computer?
This fourth of July, Americans will kick back with a beer at the pool – but just as many will kick back with a beer and a tablet.
And why not? It's the computer without the computer. It's a magic fun-box entertainment center. It's increasingly becoming the way people consume and create information – and according to a new survey by research firm NPD, 2017 will be the year more tablets are sold than notebook computers.
NDP's findings predict that between 2012 and 2017, notebook computers will jump from 208 million shipped in a year to 393 million, but tablet shipments will jump from 121 million to 416 million. More generally, "mobile PC shipments" will nearly double, from 347 million to 809 million in 2017. It's not hard to draw a conclusion here: Tablets are growing exponentially.
Why? Blame North America, Japan and Western Europe. NDP says these major regions are adopting tablets like crazy, with 66 percent of all tablet shipments ending up in these three geographic regions. NPD also expects it to stay that way for "the next few years." NDP's most "recent quarterly survey" shows the that biggest tablet player is Apple with its iPad – unsurprisingly commanding a 62.8 percent share of the tablet market. Samsung is trailing at second, with 7.5 percent.
If you extrapolate these findings a bit farther, it spells certain doom for notebooks and ultrabooks. Maybe not 5 years down the line, but closer to 10.
Let's be honest, this isn't cause for alarm; it's cause for celebration! No one will mourn the loss of the notebook (or ultrabook) because we obviously prefer the tablet computing model – we've voted on it with our wallets. What the world really wants is the convenience of a tablet with the utility of a keyboard. We're seeing that now, with fast and furious upgrades between USB/Bluetooth keyboard docks, and some interesting developments like Microsoft's Surface keyboard screen cover.
The biggest reason tablets will become the dominant (and preferred) computing platform: They remove the user from dealing with the OS. Tablets work like appliances, while computers work like cars. You don't drive a tablet, you use one. You don't "use" a car, you have to operate one. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line – the same should be true for access to information. Tablets that are based on solid state storage, super-fast RAM and accurate touch screens allow us to get to what we need without the fuss. They're state-driven devices with modal interfaces, not a command console with a million dials and switches.
That truth is made self-evident by the fact many of you are likely reading this on a mobile phone right now. And if you're not, you're probably kicking back with your tablet, soaking up the sun and drinking a beer.
Hold on tight and buckle up. The tablet revolution is here. The only thing holding us back is the past, and that will become increasingly less relevant as we march inexorably towards the future.